In contrast to many manufacturers Renault has never taken a softly-softly approach to alternative fuels and has long nailed its colours to the mast of electric vehicle technology.

And it is the Z.E. Kangoo light van that established the manufacturer as a pioneer in EVs. This year it has refined the model 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.

Launched in 2011, the Z.E. Kangoo has been Europe’s best-selling electric van for six years.

Renault claims 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, says: “It can be driven all day and make two rounds of deliveries: morning and afternoon.”

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.

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.

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.

The brand is set to launch a new version of the Z.E. Kangoo Maxi with an expanded load volume of 6.0m3 designed to meet the growing demand for parcel-delivery operations in cities. This body style will only be offered on electric vans, explains Weidemann, because in the diesel derivative it would cross over with the Trafic medium van.

Renault claims the Z.E. can now satisfy 85% of the light van market and Weidemann argues demand for used electric vans will inevitably grow because of their guaranteed exemption from congestion zone charging. He adds Renault will offer a lower rental package for the second user on batteries as well as maintaining a full purchase offer.

Highly Commended: Lightfoot

Lightfoot is a pioneering in-cab training technology that helps drivers master a smoother, safer and more efficient driving style through the use of a simple traffic light-style display mounted on the dashboard.

The company claims fleet customers typically see a reduction in their fuel bills of up to 20% coupled with a similar fall in vehicle emissions. Meanwhile, accidents and insurance claims decrease by as much as 60%.

The technology is backed up by the Lightfoot Driver of the Week initiative, which recognises and rewards the safest and most efficient drivers and offers them the chance to win prizes such as weekend breaks, spa visits and supercar track days.

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