Renault still upbeat about European EV market despite marginal sales

Article by Anita Panait, on May 14, 2012

Renault is so optimistic about the success of its electric vehicle range that it reiterated a forecast that EVs will account for around 10 percent of all cars sold in Europe by 2020. In an interview with Bruce Gain of Automotive News Europe, Renault's EV project director Thierry Koskas defended the future of battery-powered vehicles.

Critics have been saying that EV’s sales will remain marginal, based on the number of order for the electric versions of the Kangoo van and Fluence large sedan, which stands below 10,000. In response, Koskas said that currently, there is still no real EV market, and Renault is now creating a market for battery-powered vehicles, especially with its newest electric vehicle, the Renault Zoe.

Comparing Zoe to its EV predecessors, the Kangoo ZE and Fluence ZE, Koskas said that its newest EV model was a product of the company’s expertise and experience. He revealed that while the hastily marketed Kangoo ZE and Fluence ZE were based on existing combustion-engine models, the Zoe is completely new and not based on an existing platform.

He also said that Renault was able to take its sweet time in designing and developing the Zoe, which has a better battery autonomy than its predecessors.

Koskas disclosed in the interview that to prevent problems when the Zoe reaches the hands of the customers, Renault placed 300 units in circulation to measure drivers' reactions prior to the Zoe's launch. As a result, even prior to the launch, Renault found out from the drivers that Zoe was too silent when moving at low speeds in urban areas, that even pedestrians could not hear the EV coming and going.

In response, Koskas said that the Renault will install a system that will produce a warning sound for pedestrians to hear when Zoe is driven at low speeds. Koskas said that to avoid problems on the Zoe, they are sharing knowledge with their counterparts at Renault’s partner company Nissan, which has its own EV, the Leaf.

Koskas has remarked that the main selling point of the Zoe is that it features more advanced technologies for a lower price compared with the Leaf. In addition, the Zoe is also more compact that the Leaf; Renault’s EV measures 4,084mm in length while Nissan’s offering comes at 4,445 mm.

In addition, the Zoe offers a maximum range of 210 km for a single charge, while the Leaf could only be driven up to 175 km on a single charge. The Zoe has a typical range of around 150 km in mild weather and about 100 km in cold weather.

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