Prime Mover Magazine

It’s not easy being green just yet

It’s not easy being green just yet

As part of a contract with IKEA, Sydney-based Flatpack Assembly Services has commissioned a new Renault Kangoo ZE to join other small vans in its operations. While the company’s lofty goal is to have a 100 per cent ‘green’ fleet by 2025, it believes governments need to offer financial incentives to encourage wider uptake of the clean, green machines.

Renault’s Kangoo ZE is a pioneering electric van that is designed to better meet customer requirements and environmental targets.

The technical innovations built into the Kangoo ZE – a new high energy density battery mated to a new motor, plus a heat pump and a new charger that is twice as powerful as before – have, according to Renault, resulted in a driving range gain of more than 50 per cent, along with a faster, simpler charging process.

The new Kangoo ZE’s driving range is now 270km, as measured on the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC). Renault says this is equivalent to 200km in real-world summer-climate driving, compared with 170km under the NEDC achieved with the earlier version.

This extended range is thanks to the Kangoo ZE’s new, high-efficiency battery, promising a 50 per cent range increase compared to the previous battery.

It also comprises a new motor, which delivers greater efficiency along with a new on-board charging system delivering faster recovery.

The new battery, mated to the new motor and incorporated with a heat pump for cab interior climate control, all combine to produce the best driving range in the electric LCV (light commercial vehicle) market, Renault claims.

Charging the Kangoo ZE is also said to be faster and easier.

Renault says its battery can now be fully charged in as little as six hours, while a one-hour lunch break allows enough time to add a 35km top-up, helping users optimise their working day.

The Kangoo ZE comes with another innovation in the electric light LCV realm with the incorporation of a heat pump in the climate control system to maintain driving range even in cold weather.

By using the pre-conditioning system in which the trigger time can be adjusted via the vehicle’s steering wheel-mounted controls, the new Kangoo ZE cabin can be heated, or cooled, in advance while charging.

Due to the near silent operation at low speeds, Renault has incorporated ZE Voice which emits a whirring sound that serves to warn pedestrians and cyclists of the vehicle’s approach at speeds of up to 30km/h, above which tyre and road noise are deemed sufficient to alert pedestrians and other road users.

The sounds it makes were developed in association with organisations for blind and visually impaired people, with different sounds able to be selected depending on the owner’s preference.

The ZE driving experience embodies a unique blend of punch and tranquillity; punch thanks to its brisk acceleration and pick-up response, with a level of torque that is particularly welcome when carrying a full load; and tranquillity thanks to the absence of engine noise and vibrations, which help reduce driver fatigue.

The new Kangoo ZE is a particularly manoeuvrable vehicle that can be adapted easily to meet the needs of a broad spectrum of trades and end-users, thanks to the wide variety of configurations and options available.

The R60 electric motor delivers maximum torque of 225Nm in a fraction of a second, enabling brisk acceleration and pick-up from low speeds. This level of torque truly comes into its own when the vehicle is fully laden.

Acceleration is seamless and perfectly linear, giving the impression that the vehicle is equipped with the best automatic or continuously variable transmission (CVT) on the market. This is of particular benefit to those who spend the majority of their day on the road for work purposes.

Kangoo Z.E. in action

The Australian division of Flatpack Global, Flatpack Assembly Services is a Sydney-based company that assembles flatpack furniture for IKEA customers. Committed to helping ensure the sustainability of the planet, the company is working with IKEA to have a 100 per cent ‘green’ fleet by 2025.

“We bought our Renault Kangoo ZE as part of that commitment, and because we do our best to be a good corporate citizen,” says Andrew Wilcox, National Operations Manager Flatpack Assembly Services.

“We deliver and assemble flatpack furniture at IKEA customers’ homes and take away the cardboard packaging for recycling. At present we utilise the vehicle mainly around the city and suburbs of Sydney because there’s better access to charging stations. We’re on the road a lot and currently getting 275 – 300km per charge which gives us around two days of usage before we have to recharge,” he says.

“However, in the near future this could change because IKEA has undertaken to provide free charging stations at its stores, which means we’ll be able to top up the battery while we’re there, and so will customers. This will potentially enable us to use the Kangoo ZE for more distant jobs.”

For Andrew Wilcox there’s only one issue that needs to be addressed with the Kangoo ZE to make it a viable alternative to conventionally-powered vans – the purchase price.

“We have franchisees doing our work who simply can’t justify the extra $10,000 or so over and above the cost of an equivalent diesel van,” he says. “As 2025 approaches we’ll have more of these vans as they become more affordable and we move towards our sustainability goal. It would be great if the government would encourage smaller businesses to also go green with some type of subsidy or tax benefit for using these vehicles. Imagine the difference we all could make!”

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