When we drove the Renault ZOE back in 2013, we discovered the on-board Chameleon charger wasn't suited to home charging

Is Renault Ending Subsidies For 43 kW AC Renault Zoe Charging Station Installation?

Renault’s flagship electric car, the five-seat Renault Zoe Z.E. hatchback, is known worldwide for one rather clever trick. Thanks to its aptly-named on-board Chameleon Charger, the all-electric supermini can recharge from pretty much any AC public charging station it finds from 3 kilowatts single phase up to 43 kilowatts three phase.

Is Renault cutting back its plans to support public 43 kW AC charging stations?

Is Renault cutting back its plans to support public 43 kW AC charging stations?

At the highest power setting, the Renault Zoe can recharge its 22 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack from empty to 80 percent full in under thirty minutes.  It’s currently the only electric car on the market today capable of three-phase AC rapid charging at such high rates, so it makes sense that Renault has historically been providing financial assistance to charging station operators seeking to install Renault Zoe-friendly 43 kilowatt AC rapid charge stations.

No more ‘support’

Yet Transport Evolved learned yesterday from an anonymous source that Renault may be axing that policy, relying on charge providers to support its car without financial incentives.

“Renault no-longer wishes to support the installation of 43 kilowatt public charging,” our anonymous industry-insider told us.”I’m not sure if this means that it is moving to a different charging standard or something else entirely.”

In order to encourage adoption rates of its cars, Renault — along with its alliance partner Nissan — has partly funded the installation of Europe-wide ‘dual-head’ charging networks, with a 43 kilowatt AC connector and a 50 kilowatt DC CHAdeMO connector fitted.  Since each charging station installation costs a different amount of money to the next, it’s hard to tie down exact costs, but having talked to several industry professionals, we’d price the equipment itself at anywhere from £15,000 to £20,000. Installation is about the same.

“A case by case basis”

Transport Evolved reached out to Renault for official comment on the story last night and was told that the automaker was not able to confirm the rumor.  Instead, we were told, charging station installations were being examined on a case by case basis.

“Renault is still subsidizing chargers,” said Renault Press representative Aline Henry. “We participate but not systematically to the upgrade of some fast charging stations into AC/DC charging stations.”

The Kangoo Now Uses the same Type 2 Charging Port as the ZOE But Only Charges at 16A

The Kangoo Now Uses the same Type 2 Charging Port as the ZOE But Only Charges at 16A

When extra clarification was sought on new sites without any existing charging infrastructure present, we were told “Renault is subsidizing chargers on a case by case basis to trigger multi-standards.”

In other words unlike Nissan, which appears to be attempting nationwide coverage for its CHAdeMO rapid charging stations, Renault’s approach may be more cautious, perhaps even limiting charging station coverage to areas with high existing EV adoption rates.

Only the Zoe can use it

Despite having the largest selection of plug-in cars on the market today, the Renault Z.E. range doesn’t conform to one single charging standard.

Its now dead Renault Fluence Z.E. had a 3.3 kilowatt on-board charger which used the J1772 ‘type 1’ connector found on most U.S.-market cars. While it was built from the ground up to work with Better Place’s battery swap technology, its swappable battery pack could only be charged at a maximum speed of 3.3 kilowatts when located in the car.

Its tiny Twizy two-seat city car doesn’t use Chameleon charger technology either. It uses an off-the-shelf 2 kilowatt charger which plugs into a standard household outlet. Without a converter box, the Twizy can’t even use official type 2 public charging stations.

Finally, even though its Kangoo Z.E. van recently changed its charger inlet from a Type 1 to a Type 2 connector, Renault’s commercial vehicle is also limited to a maximum charge of 3.3 kilowatts.  We’ve heard from several sources that this is because the Chameleon charger simply won’t fit under the Kangoo’s already cramped hood. 

22 kilowatts

From what we can tell, it appears Renault views 43 kilowatt rapid charge stations as less important its Zoe adoption rate than CHAdeMO is for cars like the Nissan LEAF.

That may be because the Zoe’s Chameleon charger can refill the Zoe’s battery pack in an hour from empty at a far cheaper 22 kilowatt charging station. In areas where 11 kilowatts is the maximum allowable public charging station output for untethered charging stations, a Renault Zoe would charge from empty to full in two hours.

Two hours may seem like a while, but that’s still far faster than most electric cars on the market today capable of refilling from a fast rather than quick charging station. It also suggests that for now, the 22 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack is about as large as Renault is considering for the car, since falling back to 22 kilowatts on a larger pack would make charging take even longer.

Financially viable?

Here at Transport Evolved, we’re a little conflicted as to the future of AC rapid charging capabilities. When there’s only 30 minutes difference between a full 22 kilowatt charge and a full 43 kilowatt charge — and 22 kilowatt three-phase units cost far less to manufacture and install than 43 kilowatt units —  we wonder if Renault views 22 kilowatts as a more financially-viable public charging station model.

Another, more troubling option is that Renault is feeling the financial impact of poor Renault Z.E. sales at the start of the year, placing it far behind its alliance partner Nissan in the EV sales race.  With low sales figures, investing millions of euros in public charging infrastructure could be seen as a fool’s game.

Or perhaps Renault has decided its Chameleon Charger — which is known to have suffered some technical challenges across Europe during the car’s rollout — should be succeeded by another rapid charge technology. Could it even be using its latest agreement with Nissan to ditch chameleon altogether and work on one unified standard across the Renault-Nissan alliance?

Whatever the reasons, we’ll be sure to bring you more if and when this story develops.


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  • Matt Beard

    So, on Monday we get news of Nissan and Renault working closer together, then we get CHAdeMO announced as an IEC standard, then today we hear Renault is ramping down support for AC rapid charging stations. It’s hard not to see these as connected.

  • vdiv

    Isn’t the 3-phase charging station with a Mennenkes type 2 plug compatible with any vehicle with such a plug, which would only use a single phase at a lower power?nnAlso wasn’t the Model S supposed to be able to use 3-phase charging at its maximum of 22kW?

    • Mark Chatterley

      Yes. The charging station agrees with the car the fastest, safe rate they can both use. So you can even plug an e-Up! into a 44kW charging station. However, it will only take 3kW (16A single phase).nnAnd the Model S can support 22kW if you buy the extra on-board charger (32A 3-phase).

      • vdiv

        It must be fun to watch the tiny Zoe charge twice as fast as the almighty Model S 🙂

        • JolinarCZ

          sure, until you meet the 120kW SuperCharger :-)nbut, yea, I’d like to have 43kW onboard charger with Model S even though that 22kW is still 3-6 times faster than any other EV.

      • But it should be technically possible for a charging station to refuse a charge if the car doesn’t pull a minimum 3 phase, 32 A, to guarantee it is actually fast charging instead of occupying an expensive piece of equipment. If I’m not mistaken, this is being considered.nnAnother way to prevent this type of ‘abuse’ would be to charge the customer not for kWh’s, but charging time.

      • fivari

        This dual charger is a 1450u20ac option, allowing to charge only @ 22 kW, so about 10% of the price of a Renault Zoe. Just mentioning to prove how good the Chameleon charger is.

  • Surya

    Damn, I got the Zoe in part because of the fast AC charging capability. If the amount of chargers supporting that doesn’t increase in the future, that will limit the practicality of using it for international travel, which is something I am planning on using it for (in the UK to be precise)

  • alloam

    Does the 43kW part of a dual AC/DC charger really add that much cost? I thought the bulk of the cost and complexity was in the DC side of the units and that adding the 43kW option (a controlled conduit for the incoming three phase supply to the charger) was not that big a deal. nnIf this is true, I think it is a mistake on Renault’s part. The difference between 22kW and 43kW when on journeys of over 150 miles does make quite a difference to overall journey length.

  • Kalle Centergren

    Isent the point of AC charging that the charger is in the car? All you would need on the suply side is a gridd conection and some logic that tell the car charger how much power to suck?nAn AC charge point should be able to install for a materialcost of hundreds rather than thousands..nOr am i missing somthing?

    • Kalle Centergren

      A rather beefy grid conection that is, for 43 kW that would be some 180 amp..nBut you need that for a chademo too (a bitt more)

      • No, 3x63A is not a ‘beefy’ grid connection by any means.nnAnd a CHAdeMO DC charger would need even more, 3x80A. So adding an AC output to the existing CHAdeMO chargers would change nothing to the grid connection.

        • Kalle Centergren

          Well, whith beefy i ment that i can’t realy gett it installed in my garage. ;)n

  • If Renault is decreeing that ‘fast’ charging at half speed is good enough for the poor souls that bought a Zoe, then that will be the end of the Zoe as a viable electric car.nnI was dismayed to read this on Transport Evolved: “When thereu2019s only 30 minutes difference between a full 22 kilowatt charge and a full 43 kilowatt charge” I wonder if you lot actually use an electric car? Having to make a 30 minute stop before continuing your journey or having to wait a full hour makes all the difference on longer trips. You gotta be kidding, we need to push this EV thing forward, not back to the stone age. nnWhat to expect next? “Aah, 3.3 kW is good enough for anybody. There’s hotels everywhere!” 😉

    • Surya

      I agree. For occasional charging 22kWh is more than you need, but if you’re making a long trip, you really do need that 43kWh!

      • Indeed, I wish the battery in my Zoe could hold that 43 kWh. 300 km range, whooooppiiiieeee. 😉

        • Surya

          That would be awesome and more than enough for any trip (a 1h stop every 300km is NOT a big deal!)

  • fivari

    A 43 kW AC charging station is “just” an intelligent connector to the grid that can be made (not installed) for less than 1000u20ac, whereas a 50 kW CHAdeMO charging station is a complex combination of costly power electronics components. Renault should commercialise a connector that enables to connect the Mennekes charging cable to the 3 phase power outlets you see everywhere in Europe capable of 3x32A

  • Ad van der Meer

    If Renault has supported the installation of 43 kW chargers in the Netherlands I must have missed it. There are no 43 kW in the Netherlands or in Belgium for that matter.nThere were 43 kW chargers planned, but those DBT chargers proved to be unreliable and were taken off line before they went online.nIt’s eeriely quiet around those 35 DBT chargers. Promisses of a swift solution for these problems have come and gone and I’ve started to wonder if DBT is from the same company that sold us the Fyra trains.

  • perrin21

    its not only the Zoe that can charge rapid on the Ac system. I regularly charge ar 60A using my Tesla Roadster on the Rapids. I for one wont be happy to see them go. (If that does happen)

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