Living with ZE
That's as in Zoé electric. We took the plunge and leased an electric car, a Renault Zoé. You can see how it drives, very quiet and as you're sitting on batteries, you ride a little higher. By US standards, the Zoé is small. It's a four door 'supermini' hatchback and seats up to five. But with five there would be little legroom in the back. In terms of size a Zoé is a bit smaller than a Nissan Leaf. Or at least seemed that way when I test drove a Leaf last summer. But bigger than the Autolib' electric cars you can rent in Paris. As it's powered by an electric motor, pick up or torque is almost instant. It seems like the 'gas' pedal is designed in away to stow the car down. So as not to start to fast. Top speed is about 130 kph/80mph.
In terms of cost we pay about €135 per month, that's driving 7,500 km/4,660 miles per year. Our lease is for 3 years. At the end of our lease we will have to pay €.10 for every km over 22,500. We put nothing down thanks to government subsidies. The first month's payment should have been €10,000 but we got a €6,500 bonus plus another €3,500 because we turned in a 15 year old diesel car. We did have to pay €150 to have a Green Up charging plug installed. Even if we didn't lease our Zoé and bought, we would have had to lease the battery pack. Renault doesn't sell the Zoé free and clear. If you buy a Zoé you'll still need to pay monthly for the battery pack. Renault UK has an online calculator that will give you an idea of pricing. Renault promises battery performance of at least 75%. Anything lower and Renault will replace the battery pack.
We're leasing our battery pack for €79 per month. When it comes to cost of distance traveled electricity vs diesel, the Zoé comes in a about €.015 per km and a diesel car at about €.055 per km. The car the Zoé replaced was filled up about 1.5-2 times a month at about €45-€50 per tank. So even with the leasing of the battery pack, the Zoé is about the same to power as the car it replaced. Now of course at the end of our lease we'll have nothing in terms of a car, we'll either have to lease again or buy. That's a downside, but then from what I've read in online Zoé owner forums, maintenance costs with the Zoé as with other electric cars is lower. The Zoé car doesn't need a tuneup for example.
When we looked into getting a Zoé we also looked at a Nissan Leaf. In terms on cost per km the Leaf was better, a 3 year lease at €169 per month for 12,500 km per year. In France the average driver drives about that per year. This also included 4 weeks of free car rental per year. For our budget the Zoé was better.
Now the real question. How far can you drive on a full charge? The average range for a Zoé with normal driving is about 130 km/80 miles. This will cover 95% of daily driving for us. When it's cold the range can drop down to under 100 km/60km. So in the winter range will drop. Also using winter tires will lower the range. In the summer when it's hot the range increases. I've seen on forums people say they've driven up to 180 km/110 miles on a single charge. EP Tender can extend electric car range, but it has yet to hit the market.
The Zoé has an ECO feature that should maximize range. As far as I can tell it mostly limits the speed the car can go to under a 100 kph/60mph. The faster you drive the more power you use. I'm not sure someone driving full speed on an Autoroute is going to get great range. So for now the Zoé is a second car. No doubt about that. But Renault has been able to slowly increase range and they are shooting for 200 km by 2020. Range has been increased not just by better batteries but by a new lighter motor, special electric car tires (why using winter tires lowers range), a braking system that recharges the batteries (batteries also get recharged when the car coasts) and a method of turning the motor's heat into power. The regenerative braking system gives the Zoé a somewhat different feel when you slow down. The on board computer screen let's you know when the car is self-charging.
Now the second most ask question. How long does it take to charge? On our home charger about 10 hours to do a full charge. That isn't very impressive but as with any car, it's parked a vast majority of the time. One of the keys to living with an electric car is having a place to charge it. We have a garage so that's not a problem for us. But the person who has the Living with a Zoé YouTube channel doesn't have a home charger. He lives in an area of Scotland that would seem to have a better selection of chargers than my area of France.
We're only tried two different public changers, Super U - Bonne sur Menoge and Cap Bernard. The price of usage was from €0.0 to €.70 per charge of 30 minutes. Renault offers up to an hour of free charging per day. But that's limited to dealerships with chargers and then it's only when the dealer is open. So long distance travel on a Sunday could be iffy! The Zoé comes with two charging cords, one that plugs into a normal French power socket and a type 2 for faster charging.
The Zoé is a connected car. There is an online interface that let's you see the battery level and a few other things. You can also program the Zoé to be warm in the morning. There is an app for iOS and Android. The Zoé comes with a 'flat' key that looks like most used on the newer Renault models except for the button that opens the car's power plug.
So far the two negatives we've had is that the Zoé was delivered 3 months late and it had to go back to the dealership after a few hundred kilometers because of a warning light. Here's a pro electric car article that includes a video of the presentation it's based on.
More Zoé photos here.
Jan & Jeff
Jan Malleval of Jan & Jeff fame, has started a facebook page Duckducksoup. She'll be sharing recipes and cooking tips in both English and French!
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