Plug in performance
The all-electric Renault Kangoo ZE light vehicle became available through Australian dealers at the end of November and has presented the market with a proven electric driveline that with some new improvements.
Renault’s compact battery-powered van has achieved a significant level of acceptance and success in Europe since it was first exposed at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show. A subsequent alliance with Nissan resulted in more than 25,000 units being sold during the past six years and the time now seems right to put the Renault Kangoo ZE to work in Australia.
Some may argue that the ‘Zero Emission’ moniker shouldn’t apply if the charging power is generated by fossil fuelled power stations, however, the vehicle itself isn’t responsible for deciding its power source. Besides, there are numerous ‘sustainable’ power providers around if Kangoo ZE operators want to take the reduction of their carbon footprint a step further.
The Kangoo ZE has been Europe’s best-selling battery-powered commercial van for the past six years, with a 29.5 per cent market share as of end-May 2017. This latest version that we have in Australia is engineered with a new high-energy-density battery that is mated to a new motor, featuring a heat pump that operates the climate control system as well as a new charger that is twice as powerful as earlier models. This combination has resulted in a faster, simpler charging process, along with a driving range gain of more than 50 per cent.
The new Kangoo ZE’s driving range is now 270km, as measured on the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) standard. This is equivalent to around 200km in real-world summer-climate driving. Load, driving style, traffic and road conditions will affect the range just as with a petrol or diesel vehicle, while the average metropolitan or suburban courier will find the overnight recharge sufficient to be able to complete the next day’s work.
On the road it doesn’t drive much differently to its internal combustion contemporaries. It’s quiet, smooth, with virtually no engine noise or driveline vibrations, and accelerates as well as the traffic around it, hitting a top speed of 130km/h. The Renault R60 motor delivers 44kW (60hp) and the maximum torque of 225Nm is available from rest in a fraction of a second, enabling brisk acceleration and pick-up from low speeds, even with a full load on board. One obvious difference, from the driver’s perspective, is the battery gauge. Forward and reverse can be selected via a conventional-looking T bar-style selector.
The Kangoo ZE’s extended driving range can be attributed partly to the ‘ZE 33’ battery. Developed jointly by Renault and LG Chem, it provides significantly upgraded energy density. This means its storage capacity has been boosted without any changes to its size or weight, so the vehicle’s load-carrying capacity is unchanged. The new energy-efficient motor combines with an optimised electronic battery management system, which limits the electricity consumed by the vehicle during road use with no detriment to power output.
The heat pump improves the driving range in cold conditions, too, by restricting the use of electrical resistors that consume both power and range. By using the pre-conditioning system (the trigger time of which can be adjusted via the vehicle’s steering wheel-mounted controls), the van can be heated or cooled in advance when plugged in via the automatic climate control system.
Other features include Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EB), hill-start assist, as well as front and side airbags for the driver and passenger, rear parking sensors with camera, Bluetooth connectivity and a steel bulkhead as standard equipment. The long wheelbase model has four cubic metres of load space, a payload of 650kg and a turning circle of 11.9m.
The price premium that comes with the Kangoo ZE can be offset by the incredibly low maintenance costs and lower energy cost of electricity compared to petrol or diesel.
Australia has demonstrated a willingness to adopt new, yet proven, technology and the history of the taxi industry moving to hybrids is a good example of this. Renault placed two previous-model Kangoo ZEs with Australia Post in 2014, initially for a 12-month trial. Another two were added about a year later and the nation’s biggest fleet seems in no hurry to return them, which must be a positive sign.
When the Renault Kangoo ZE (Zero Emissions) van is connected to a 7.4kW wall box, the battery should fully charge in six hours whereas standard charging at 3kW can take six to nine hours.
The quiet operation of the Kangoo ZE presents a safety concern for pedestrians – especially those distracted by mobile devices. To alert people within earshot of the relatively silent running vehicle, the van has a voice system that was developed in association with organisations for blind and visually impaired people where different sounds can be selected depending on the owner’s preference.