Renault began direct sales of electric vans in Australia with the Kangoo Z.E. (Zero Emissions) compact van at the end of last year. The Z.E. has been on sale in Europe for six years and 25,000 have been sold in Europe to a wide range of users. It now holds 34.5 per cent of Europe’s electric vehicle commercial market.
“Bringing the Renault Kangoo Z.E. to Australia has been a long-held goal for us,” said Elena Woods, Senior Model Line Manager for Electric Vehicles at Renault Australia. “We are really excited to offer our customers the opportunity to make a giant step forward in terms of innovative transportation.”
The new Kangoo Z.E.’s driving range is now 270km, as measured on the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC). This is equivalent to 200km in real-world summer-climate driving. This compares with 170km under the NEDC achieved earlier versions of the van.
The range has been extended by new battery technology. Kangoo Z.E.’s new battery is claimed to increase the van’s range by 50 per cent. The new Kangoo Z.E. also uses a new motor, which delivers greater efficiency along with a new on-board charging system delivering faster recharge times.
Kangoo’s new battery technology is the 33kWh ‘Z.E. 33’– developed jointly by Renault and LG Chem – featuring upgraded energy density. This means its storage capacity has been increased without any changes to its bulk, so the vehicle’s load carrying capacity is unchanged.
Battery performance has been optimised, not by adding extra modules, but by improving the chemistry of the battery cells themselves, in order to increase energy density. The battery itself weighs in at 255kg and according to Renault, this development was achieved with no trade-off in terms of reliability, safety or payload.
The new energy-efficient motor and an optimised electronic battery management system limits the electricity consumed by the vehicle during road use, with no detriment to power output. The all-Renault R60 motor delivers 44kW (60hp) and is based on the R90 motor that also powers larger Renault electric cars. Torque from this motor is 225Nm and this is available from zero rpm up to1870 rpm.
The engine is manufactured at Renault’s Cléon plant in France, the Group’s flagship facility for the production of high added-value engines, motors and transmissions.
The Kangoo Z.E. comes with another innovation, the incorporation of a heat pump in the climate control system to maintain driving range even in cold weather. This heat pump improves the driving range in cold conditions by restricting the use of electrical resistors that consume both power and range. Renault claim this is the world’s first van to be equipped with this feature.
By using the pre-conditioning system (the trigger time of which can be adjusted via the vehicle’s steering wheel-mounted controls), the new Kangoo Z.E. can be heated, or cooled, in advance when plugged in to an electricity supply, via the automatic climate control system.
The new charger for the Kangoo Z.E. is said to have twice the power capacity of its predecessor. When the van is plugged in to the 7.4kW wall box, it will fully charge the battery in six hours. The charger is a new-generation single phase 7.4kW (32A, 230V) AC unit that can also top up the vehicle with 35km of driving range in mild weather in just one hour (during a lunch break, or while being loaded) to deliver a valuable productivity boost.
There is also a standard charge plug available at 3.7 kW which will take 11 hours to recharge the battery. In comparison, plugging the van into a normal domestic wall plug, delivering 2.3kW will take 17 hours to recharge the battery.
The drive line has no gear ratios and the van can achieve a top speed of 130 km/h. Acceleration is set at a stately 22.6 seconds for 0-100 km/h.
Renault have followed up the release of the electric Kangoo in Europe with the release of the Renault Master Z.E. This does use a bigger, and more powerful motor, rated at 57hp, but with similar torque levels at 225Nm.
The larger heavier Master van uses the same battery as the one fitted in the smaller lighter Kangoo. As a result the range of the Master Z.E. is limited to just 200km in testing, but reckoned to be around 120km in the real world.
One problem that afflicts electric vehicles, especially those delivering in crowded city areas is the low level of noise the motor emits. Pedestrians cannot hear them coming in situations where vans and pedestrians are active.
The solution Renault have come up with is called Z.E. Voice. It is designed to add a safety dimension to the vans up to speeds of around 30 km/h (above which tyre and road noise would be sufficient to alert pedestrians).
The audible warning informs pedestrians and cyclists of the vehicle’s otherwise silent approach. The sounds it makes were developed in association with organisations for blind and visually impaired people. Different sounds can be selected depending on the owner’s preference.