4 Weeks with my Renault Zoe - EV Part 5

So I'm 4 Weeks into owning my Electric Car and this is my first round up. Some bits may be repeated from the previous posts however a majority should be new.

The Car Itself

Straight to the point, the car itself. Its a really nice car to drive, It has lots of things which aren't standard with most cars Radio ( with MP3, Aux, USB, Bluetooth for phone and music, and built in tom tom Satnav), Cruise Control, Automatic Gearbox, automatic lights & windowscreen wipers, "start stop" technology, hill start assist and more!

Driving is really nice and smooth, being an EV the renault zoe offers two modes of driving between Normal and Eco.

Eco mode is designed to try and extend range, it does this by placing some artifical caps on speed and acceleration. For acceleration I'd say it puts it on par with a car with manual gears without trying to speed off. The speed is reasonably fast at geting to 30Mph and then not too bad getting to 60Mph. However it seems to artifically limit it to 60Mph. From what I've researched this does offer a very good power to mile ratio and is going to be critical to making my long journey soon.

In normal mode you can feel the speed of an electric car, and its really fast. There's also no speed limiting of the 60Mph allowing you to get to 70Mph on dual carridgeways.

One feature it has is similar to Steam Controller, where for a majority of the accelerator is easy to push down but if in eco mode you need a sudden increase to be able to accelerate quickly you can push it past the virtual stop and it'll speed up rapidly.

The difficulty is because there is no engine noise it is more common to accidentally go over the speed limit. I always like to stick to them being a young driver however the built in Sat Nav quickly reminds you if you go more than around 2 Miles over. The speedo seems much more accurate than others I've had so there isn't as much room compared to some cars.

The interior is very nice, seats are comfterble it feels as if there's more room than in my previous Fiat Panda as well. The boot seems bigger and can fit as much in despite having part of it taken up with the cable required to charge.

Overall its a very nice car, I like everything about it and a lot of the critacisms I've read seem to be just to try and find issues with it because its an EV.

Range

So far I haven't had an issue with the range, when I tried to drain the battery down a fair way originally with an estimated range of 80 miles I was able to drive 80 miles without charging at all with 10% left at an estimated 10 Mile range left.

I do want to do a long distance trip to Stevenage soon, the issue is however that there's only one charger on my route there and I will require to use it.

Repairs

So far however, the Zoe has had to go back to the dealer twice.

The first was for what is known as the "BMS Update" which is just a firmware update for the ICs that control the battery %, charging etc. Without this update being done the battery controller IC has a battery curve which isn't the most accurate and can usually give false readings for range and takes a long time to charge the last couple of %.

At the same time the Zoe usually has Blue Renault Badges on them, however they start to flake over time so I also asked for new ones.

The update was done however took a majority of the day to do, (I dropped it off before 9AM and it was done around 4PM) and the issue was resolved. They also replaced the badges however unfortunately the new ones are now Silver which is quite a shame as the blue matched the tint in the Lights. As you also have to touch the one on the front each time you put the car on Charge this smudges really easily and I suspect it might tarnish over time.

However a week after this update when driving to work I then had lots of warning lights pop up! Indicating a fault with the electrical system. After then asking on the Renault Zoe Owners Club Facebook all indications were towards the 12V Battery.

Upon looking at the battery it didn't look as if it's been replaced since the car was made, Renault themselves recommend that it should be replaced every 3 years with at a push extending it to 4 years if its been constantly used every day. However as this was a 4 year old car with no mention in the service book of it being replaced I suspected it was at fault.

I called the RAC as it was a Sunday and I needed to use my car on Monday & Tuesday so couldn't get it to be tested by the dealer until Wednesday. They tested the battery as OK however couldn't test it properly as the labels were covered up. Handily the RAC send a test report of what the battery tested as and upon googling the correct rating is 420EN and it tested at 358EN. Quite a significant drop.

I'd say that a 12V battery is more important on a Zoe than a normal car, this is because on a normal car if your 12V battery hasn't got enough oomph your car won't start. If you get a jumpstart or such it'll then be running off of the alternator instead.
On a Zoe however the engine battery is only for the engine, apparently it does charge the 12v battery but I've read some bits that say only once for a few second when you start the car, some say upon opening a door or such. However it doesn't seem to be continuousely while driving. Meaning if the battery starts to have issues all electrical systems stop working including breaks, power steering and all drive controls.

When I took it to the dealer I was able to get a new battery out of them for free as I just purchased the car from them, it turned out it was never replaced so I'll be getting a replacement if I still have the Zoe in 4 years, however likely from a local garage as the Renault cost is over £150.

Charging

I didn't have many issues with charging with a 3 Pin slow cable in the sense of none at all, As long as I put it on charge every night I always woke up to a full or close to full charge. This is primarily tested when I went to Norwich two days in a row for the TTN UK as on the Monday I didn't get back until around half 9. As I drove around 50 Miles in total this brought my battery down a signficiant amount. I left it on charge until 6:30AM when I had to leave and while it had charged more than enough to go to norwich and back again it didn't charge to 100% at all.

However apart from this for my normal day to day town driving it was fast enough for it to always charge to 100% over night for an average of 10-20 moles a day.

However now I have a fixed charger which charges it much quicker with a majority of my charging taking less than an hour to get back up to 100%.

I've used a public charger at a Mcdonalds twice however I haven't used any public rapid charge chargers that charge at 22KW or above. My model of Zoe can charge at up to 43KW which theoretically can charge my car from 10% to 80%+ in half an hour. Of which for the long journeys I would like to do wouldn't be an issue as I usually take a stop half way along my journey.

All it would require is 2 of the 10-15 petrol stations on this route to have a charger fitted and I'd be more than fine with the half hour wait.

The primary reasons I fitted a rapid charger early on was in case the government cut the OLEV Grant for chargers, and more because the cable I was using cost around £200 and was concerned more if it was stolen or damaged in some way.

Cost savings & Green!

One of the most common things advertised about EVs is that they're cheaper to run than a normal Petrol / Diesel car and this depends.

Cost

I didn't buy an EV for it to be cheaper at all, while per mile the electric cost is much lower (Around 3-4P per mile instead of around 15-16p per mile in my previous car), most Renault Zoes have a battery rental which is why they're much more of an affordable car. However for me the battery rental costs £59 a month which with the average electric of £17.50 is £76.50 which is around the same cost if not slightly more than my normal car. However a few bits such as servicing should cost less, apparently some bits which get ware and tare on most cars are less common. This year despite the insurance group being 16 instead of 4 for my old car my insruance has gone down by £40 and I have had that refunded. Next year this might increase but I'm not sure.

Greeeeen!
While it may be Greener than a normal car there is a big debate about if they are truely green due to electric coming from a mix of sources. While you can pay more for "green" electric currently I'm not worried about doing this.

I'm not massively concerned on the green angle of it as I primarily brought it because of it being electric from a geeky point of view. Not an eco point of view. However compared to a normal car it has advantages in cases where there's traffic as when stuck in traffic at idle there isn't any pollution.

Could it be though similar to servers in the cloud, instead of the pollution being spread out over the UK could it be with the increase it all technically moves into concentrated areas?

Other EV Myths!

What about running over a blind person who doesn't hear me?
The Renault Zoe has a fake noise generator which sounds quite Sci-fi like up to 18Mph, after this the noise of the wheels is more than enough to be able to know a car is there. If you have the air conditioning system on this actually sounds as loud as some car engines so this isn't an issue at all.

Can I take it through a carwash?
Yep, I haven't yet myself but plan to soon. While normal ones aren't an issue I was concerned about attended car washes however it does seem you can put the car into neutral and turn the engine off.

Can I charge it in the rain?
Yep, no issue at all I found. The connectors are IP44 rated on my charger and from the best I can tell the renault has a drain hole for rain to drain through around the charging socket.

Is it hard to plug in the charger?
Not really, the connector might not be reversable or such but is very clear on which way round to put it. Usually the catch on the zoe is slightly harder to open than the rest of the process.

Roundup!

And that's pretty much it, I'm really happy with it.

I do think the amount of public chargers need to increase rapidly, currently there is only one charger on my journey from Great Yarmouth to Stevenage and this goes along the A47, A11, A14 and A505. If for example the Five Ways roundabout or the Sainsburys / Lidl / Mcdonalds combo the other side of the Thetford Bypass. This would make my journey easily possible and I usually stop at one of these on my Way for a drink and breakfast. Currently the only charger on this route is at a BP with a Starbucks and Subway on the southbound but none on the northbound.

Great Yarmouth itself doesn't have any chargers that are usable by the public so I'd kinda like to see this increased. However from another angle there's the argument of if it'd be worth me getting my charger cable out to top up with about 2KW of electric. But for tourists coming to Yarmouth this is an important issue.

I'm happy I made the right choice of car. For all of my day to day driving it is really nice and I've really enjoyed going out for extra driving just for the fun of it.

Coming soon!

Here's some blogposts coming soon about it!

  • 3 Pin Charging vs 7KW Charging, does it cost more?
  • Review of the Pod Point Charger, Is it worth paying more for a smart charger?
  • And potentially a project whereI make it so my charger automaticaly can pay my Mum & Dad for the amount of electric it uses!

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