France may not have been as quick to adopt electric cars as some had hoped, but things seem to be slowly changing for the better. Just in time to appeal to a new wave of potential EV buyers is a refreshed Renault Zoe Z.E., which gets a 20% boost in range thanks to lighter, better motor. Can that help improve lagging sales?
The new R240 motor still makes 87 horsepower, and it’s managed to shed a little bit of weight, and squeeze itself into a slightly smaller package. Improvements to the motor, as well as the battery management system, increased range by about 18 miles on the generous European testing cycle. This boosts the claimed total range of the Zoe to about 149 miles per charge. Wow, right?
Well, don’t get too excited just yet. On the same testing cycle, the Nissan LEAF is rated at 124 miles per charge, whereas the EPA gives it a much more realistic rating of about 84 miles. That’s a nearly 50% difference between what European and American testing standards say for the LEAF, and applying the same math to the Renault gives us a “real world” rating right around 100 miles. Still more mileage than most EVs on the market, I’ll grant you, but probably not the 149 miles Renault is claiming. The same can be said of Nissan’s claims to have a 250 mile battery in the works, though if I were a betting man, I’d put my money on Japan before France.
Despite its alliance with Nissan, the Renault Zoe has had to fight its distant cousin the LEAF for the hearts and minds of European EV enthusiasts. The Zoe does arguably have a better financial argument in its favor, thanks to a lower cost and better rental scheme. It’s also arguably better-looking than the LEAF. But it’s also smaller, is sold in fewer markets, and hasn’t enjoyed anywhere close to the LEAF’s success. Just over 12,000 Renault Zoes have been sold since going on sale, compared to over 158,000 LEAFs. Even with the rest of Renault’s zero-emission lineup included in the count, the Japanese-French alliance has only built just mover 200,000 EVs…meaning the LEAF makes up more than 3/4 of the total sales.
Can a boost to range boost lagging Zoe sales? Eh, probably not. What could help, however, is a new program that may offer diesel car drivers as much as €10,000 to switch to an EV. Norway has proved how powerful incentives can be at encouraging EV ownership. A new motor and some extra range is nice, but 50% off the price of a new car is even better.