My Renault friend’s electric – self charging ZOE

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NO ONE could wish for their first experience in handling an all-electric motor to take place in pitch darkness with rain pooling around the ankles. On a January night, the windchill battered in from the Shannon but as with other challenges, Renault’s baby ZOE rose quickly to these challenges. Fast forward driving in calm warmth followed promptly.

Ignition? More of a swipe: insert the key card, release brake and ‘Start’ button together and a comforting ‘READY’ pops up on the console.  Automatic transmission is what it is, but set to ‘Auto’ cue, appropriate headlights/ dims/ daylights turn themselves on, as with the windscreen wipers sensor and air condition plus GPS. Driving has never been this easy.

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Plus for all the airy ecofriendly lightness of ZOE on the road, she is pleasingly solid and super responsive.

Renault’s ZOE (pronounced Zoey) is a five seater, four door compact family car with a 340KM Summer Range and 270 Winter Range.

GET PHYSICAL

Better still, its regenerative brake replenishes the battery charge constantly. It’s a mesmerising metric visible on the dash, according to how you set the central monitor. In the halting progress of rush hour traffic, the brake generates a constant flush of electricity to the massive ionic battery concealed under the chassis.

Pulling into my driveway after 50 minutes split between a stretch of Ballysimon motorway and the usual urban cycle traffic, the initial driving range of 170km had climbed to 186km. That’s after a a good 30kilometres of travel was done. Factor in the blast of heating, air con, radio, Sat Nav and sensor-driven wipers on the lash; the gain in driving range was still substantial.

So ZOE is the gift that keeps on giving expensive electricity, inverting the past 120 years’ output of mass produced motor cars.

Dennehy Motors at Riverside Retail Park, Dock Road is regional dealer for Renault and Dacia. Dennehy Motors is also a Department of the Environment testing centre for commercial vehicles.

MONEY TALKS

Time to  number crunch. What does this car cost? Less the Government grant of €5,000 to get us all driving electric cars (not available to hybrid models), the entry level:

ZOE Expression Nav is €24,990; Limerick Post’s test drive model, the  ZOE Dynamique Nav is €27,790 and ZOE Signature Nav is €30,290.

Motor Tax is €120 annually; emissions are zero; finance is 0 per cent on the ZOE in a hire purchase agreement; five years’ warranty and five  years’ road side assistance. Recharge in full overnight at your home for just €2.60 on average – but you will almost never be recharging an empty battery, just topping up. Thus the real cost is far less.

ELECTRIC CHARGE

Again, notional maximum driving range is 340KM Summer Range and 270 Winter Range but traction on the road against wind, then using heat, wipers, music ensures wear on the battery. On the open road to Clare the next day, the battery was consumed after a couple of hours but considering I had 170 kilometres to play with at the test drive onset, I returned the car to Dennehy Motors after three days typical driving with about 148km still available  – and I’d plugged nothing in to recharge.

Pay attention to the challenge of belting along the motor way. Dealer principal Rory Dennehy is clear about this: if driving from Limerick to Dublin Airport, anticipate a 30 minute break and recharge at a free 22kw charge point. Thus far the ESB provides free access but this is expected to change.

Frankly, the suburban tilt and turn of January driving is hard going on any petrol or diesel fuel gauge but Renualt ZOE’s conversion of the commuter grind into electric gold is really exciting. What a money saver.

0% Renault Finance

Hire Purchase contact

5 year Renault Warranty

5 year Roadside Assistance

3 year SMART Insurance option

e5,000  grant

Still, ‘range anxiety’ is the constant barrier to sale of all-electric cars. Bear in mind many of us never approach that CSO declared average of 45km on the road daily. Driving in ‘Eco’ mode is another tip to maximise the battery.

Available on the Dynamique Nav and top of the range signature Nav, Renault’s ZOE QC Motor for quick charging is an optional €1,500 extra to reduce recharging to 65 minutes. There’s a modest subscription charge of €75 annually for the remote access app to your smartphone.

Would this reviewer switch to a ZOE from my 1.4 petrol small family car? A resounding yes, and in faster  time than ZOE’s 135km top speed.

Befriend your pocket and the environment with the changeover now. Contact Dennehy Motors 061-442444 Monday to Saturday,  Riverside Retail Park, Dock Road.