The Renault ZOE electric passenger vehicle premiered at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show represents quite a change from the concept first shown at 2009's Frankfurt Motor Show, although many of the features promised three years ago have made it into the final design. The French auto maker says that the first of its Z.E. range benefits from a battery range of up to 130 miles, a top speed of 83 miles per hour and a new onboard charger that is capable of juicing up the battery pack at any level. There are some really nice design touches and lots of spanking new technology, but the real winner for the ZOE is likely to be its attractive price point - although owners will also have to stump up a monthly hire charge for the battery.

An almost final design of the new electric supermini was on display at the 27th International Automobile Festival at the Hotel National des Invalides in Paris last month, but Renault waited for Geneva to show off the absolute final design and open its Z.E. online portal to reservations ahead of Q3 availability throughout Europe. The ZOE is said to have been designed as a pure electric car from the ground up, yet retains the familiar outward appearance of a fuel-driven car, and has had over 60 patents filed for the various new design and technology aspects.

Renault says that the ZOE is the first mass-market electric vehicle to be homologated with a New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) range of 210 km (130 miles) from its 22kWh Lithium-ion battery pack. In the real world, suburban use terms this is said to translate to anything from 100 km (62 miles) in cold weather to 150 km (93 miles) in warmer conditions, thanks to its Range OptimiZEr technology - a combination of regenerative braking, a clever heat pump and Michelin Energy E-V tires - which makes its debut in the electric five-seater.

Kinetic energy produced by deceleration is recovered by the motor to return some juice to the battery pack, a feature that's also featured in the company's Fluence and Kangoo zero emission vehicles. The system in the ZOE also uses a combination of the brake pads and electric motor braking to maximize the opportunity for battery charging when the driver hits the brake pedal. The vehicle's heat pump is said to operate in the same way as reverse-cycle air-conditioning, generating about 2kW of cooling or 3kW of heat from 1kW of electricity. The E-V tire's rubber compound, tread design and sidewalls have all been specifically designed for electric vehicle performance.

Like Nissan's Leaf, the charging port is at the front of the ZOE, behind the Renault badge. The vehicle's Chameleon charger allows it to be charged via a 3kW/16A home charging box in nine hours, or in an hour by visiting a 22kW/32A three phase charging station, or in just 30 minutes from a 43kW/63A charging station.

Renault is supporting the vehicle's launch by also making fast-charging stations available that are priced at less than EUR3,000 (about US$4,000) each - up to four times cheaper than other solutions. The new charging stations are currently being previewed at Renault's Geneva stand.

The ZOE was designed at the Renault Technocentre in the municipal district of Guyancourt and is being manufactured at the company's Flins factory on the outskirts of Paris, both in France of course. The vehicle features a 65kW/88hp synchronous electric motor with rotor coil that delivers 220Nm of torque, and offers gearshift-free acceleration to a top speed of 135 km/h (83 mph). From next year, the electric motor for the ZOE will be made at the company's Cléon factory.

The ZOE also represents a first time outing for the Renault R-Link multimedia system, featuring a 7-inch touch screen tablet-like display, steering wheel-mounted controls, speech recognition, GPS navigation, and connected services from motoring services and Renault's app store. Users will have access to over 50 apps at launch that will, for example, allow a smartphone or computer to remotely access information about ZOE's charge status, and activate an immediate or delayed cabin pre-conditioning system.

It doesn't have the pretty blue butterflies of Ford's Focus Electric, but the navigation system will inform the driver of the locations of nearby charging points, and there'll also be specific EV information available such as histogram of energy consumption, display of energy flows and preprogramming of battery charging.

Safety features include driver and front passenger airbags (with the latter capable of being deactivated), three-point safety belts, ISOFIX child seat fixing points, and a pedestrian warning system named ZOE Voice. This system is active between 1 and 30 km/h (up to 18 mph) and will alert those nearby of the car's presence in a choice of three different alarm sounds. The driver can also choose to disable the system altogether. There's a rear parking sensor with rear view parking camera, and the ZOE's activated charcoal cabin air filter promises to keep the air inside the car free of pollutants like pollen, as well as trap bad smells.

The Renault ZOE will be available in three versions. The cost of each varies from country to country, but the ZOE Life model is priced at EUR15,700 ($20,822) in France (with the relative eco-bonus already taken off), GBP13,650 ($21,594) in the UK and EUR20,600 ($27,320) in Germany.

The Zen version includes a soft-feel dashboard, a scent diffuser, ionizer and toxicity sensor, in addition to easy-clean Teflon upholstery, and is listed at EUR17,500 in France (again with eco-bonus already taken off), GBP14,750 ($23,334) in the UK and EUR22,400 ($29,707) in Germany. The Intens model is priced the same as the ZOE Zen. In each case, owners will have to pay Renault a monthly battery hire charge.

Renault has now opened up its Zero Emission online portal (see source link below) for reservations.

Source: Renault Z.E.

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