The Renault Zoe’s Importance


If you are from the United States, you may have just heard about the Renault Zoe in car shows or online discussions but this subcompact is being girded to be the most important European vehicle in the decade.

Why so? It is built by one of the largest European automakers, Renault, through partnerships with Nissan. Nissan’s flagship in the electric revolution is its iconic all-electric Leaf. How the market accepts the Zoe will determine the future of all electric cars in Europe in the long run. This is because there are quite a number of subcompacts as well as diesel compact cars in Europe. Many car owners live in multiple dwelling housing plans without their own garages, making the European car market a tougher sell for any carmaker let alone an all electric car maker.

Another factor is that France’s reliance on nuclear power creates a better option when looking at the greenhouse gas emissions coal fired electricity plants generated. France also has experience with electric vehicles, with the AutoLib electric car-sharing program placing nearly two thousand Bollore Blue Cars for use within the capital region. Thus electric cars are not new to the French public and there is a clear understanding on how carbon emissions impacts the environment.

The Zoe utilizes a 66 kWh electric motor able to generate 162 lb/ft of torque, with power coming from its 22 kWh lithium ion battery pack. According to the NEDC, Europe’s equivalent to the U.S. EPA, the vehicle has a range of 210 km on a single full charge. It has a top speed of 135 km/h and utilizes a fast charging ‘Cameleon’ system, allowing the car battery to be charged between thirty minutes to nine hours depending on the power input. This design is a five door hatchback and full blown production commenced in 2012.

With its very simple compact design and specifications, one of the major hurdles for its full acceptance is the infrastructure involved in making the Zoe the most used vehicle on French roads. One of the issues is the lack of public charging stations and there is still a conflict on whether volume dictates the infrastructure or the infrastructure would come before the volume of cars.

The simplest reason why the Zoe is of utmost importance is that there is no gasoline version. It’s either the Zoe or bust they say.

How Electric Vehicles are Changing Driving Behavior


Imagine a future where you, as a vehicle owner, pull into a gasoline station with the gas warning light on and with miles ahead of you before going to work. You find that each of the pumps are occupied where the individual drivers have either walked into the convenience store. The cars at the pump have not been filled and the drivers are not expected to return for hours. 

In this situation, what would you do?

  1. Resign to the fact you would avoid driving home from work;
  2. Go look for the drivers to ask them to allow you to cut the line;
  3. Take out the hose of another car and use it while the driver is away?

This is the future electric car owners stand to face. This situation can be met in every place such as Sacramento’s City Hall parking facility, where the one single row of electric car chargers are full on weekdays, not just for electric cars but also the so-called “I.C.E.’s” or internal combustion engines.

There has been even an academic paper conducted by Nicolette Caperello and Kenneth S. Kurani of the University of California at Davis. The study consisted of more than twenty in-depth interviews with electric vehicle owners. The questions consisted of whether a person using a retailer’s charging space has an obligation to shop there or how co-workers at a company would manage charging facility issues on use and scheduling.

One response to the company facility charging issue would be employee’s finding ways on their system to serve all their needs. The primary rule seems to be ‘first come, first served’ but this is subject to modifications, such as the individual’s need to be in a specific location during the day. When this occurs, the person seeking to charge their vehicle would send an email to a list server of electric plug in vehicle owners to determine who is using the facility and what charger they are using that is readily available to accommodate the request.

Many say that electronic media helps sort out these issues as quickly as possible. Amongst them is a Wiki, which is a website that allows any member to revise content using a simple Web browser. This is one of the simplest ways that electric plug in drivers can communicate with one another.

One of the major players in the field, Sandra Berg of the California Air Resources Board, had earlier reported that there was space for Nissan Leaf, but there was no plug available. When faced with the earlier dilemma string when at the electric charging queue, she said she would use Option C when the car battery she takes the hose from is already full. She would however leave a note on the windshield saying, “I noticed you were fully charged and I needed a charge to get to my destination and so I unplugged your car. I wanted you to know why your charger was unattached.” She said she would then sign the note and would also leave her email address for the car owner. When there are no spaces and plugs available, she says she takes her car to the nearest Nissan dealership and leaves it there to charge up the batteries.

Until the technology improves and the infrastructure develops, the problem is expected to become worse as more and more PEVs come online in the future.