Alternative fuels: To EV or CNG, that is the question

Date: Monday, August 14, 2017   |   Author: James Dallas


3-New -Kangoo -Van -Z.E.33--

The newest Renault Z.E Kangoo takes six hours to charge fully


In contrast to Volkswagen, Renault has not taken a softly-softly approach to alternative fuels and has long nailed its colours to the mast of electric vehicle technology. At the Brussels motor show in January the brand revealed its first plug-in large van – the Z.E. Master will come to market in the first quarter of 2018. Designed for last-mile deliveries, it will have a real world range of 75 miles, Renault claimed, a 1,000kg payload – 400kg less than the diesel can carry – and a loadspace of 13.0m3.

It is the Z.E. Kangoo light van, however, that established the manufacturer as a pioneer in EVs, and it has refined the model this year with new 33kW batteries that have increased range by 50% to 168 miles on the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), or 124 miles under real-world conditions.

We drove the upgraded Z.E. Kangoo in left-hand drive mode and found that much of the previous harshness in acceleration and braking has been eradicated to be replaced by  far smoother driving characteristics, although it is still possible to keep use of the foot brake to a minimum when slowing down just by releasing the throttle.

The van had a 250kg load in the back, which helped to improve the ride by tempering its more extreme EV tendencies without diminishing the load-lugging ability of the 60hp and 225rpm maximum torque available. Full battery charging time has been reduced from eight to six hours, but rapid charging is not offered as the brand claims it reduces the lifespan of the battery. However, Renault adds that a one-hour charge can top-up the range with an extra 22 miles.

The brand has added a heat pump to the new Kangoo Z.E. that operates through the air-conditioning system without significantly reducing range during cold weather through overworking electrical components, according to the manufacturer. It admits, however, that this will not be a standard fit.

Launched in 2011, the Kangoo Z.E. has been Europe’s best-selling electric van for six years. Renault claimed that a quarter of the 120,000 electric vans on European roads bear its badge. Of the extended range, Jean-Louis Weidemann, global sales and marketing boss for small vans, said: “It can be driven all day and make two rounds of deliveries: morning and afternoon.”

Renault has introduced a smartphone-based app, ZE Pass, that customers can use to pay for recharging, and an online tool for fleets, ZE Connect Pro, that fleet managers can use to check the van’s battery charge levels when on the road or at base. ZE Trip, meanwhile, uses the van’s R-Link navigation system to locate charge points.

Renault claims a payload of 650kg for the Z.E. Kangoo and the long-wheelbase Z.E. Maxi version and maximum load volumes of 3.5m3 and 4.6m3 respectively, which correspond to the diesel equivalents.

At the end of the year the brand says it will launch a new version of the Z.E. Kangoo Maxi with an expanded load volume of 6.0m3 to meet the growing demand for parcel delivery operations in cities. This bodystyle will only be offered on electric vans, explained Weidemann, because in the diesel derivative it would cross over with the Trafic medium van.

Weidemann emphasised the enhanced practicality of the Z.E. Kangoo line-up with its extended range. “Customers are pragmatic,” he explained. “They will only buy what they need. But the peak [maximum] usage possibility is a must – they need more range for work.”

He claimed the Z.E. can now satisfy 85% of the light van market. Weidemann argued demand for used electric vans will grow because of their guaranteed exemption from congestion zones. He added Renault will offer a lower rental package for the second user on batteries as well as maintaining a full purchase offer.

The Z.E. Kangoo will go on sale in September with a starting price of £14,200 plus £50 month battery rental, or for an outright purchase for £17,800. Air-conditioning with the heat pump costs £965. All prices exclude VAT.


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