Official: Renault Says ‘No’ To Battery Purchase For ZOE Electric Car

If you want to buy an all-electric Renault of any sort, be it the stylish ZOE hot hatch, Twizy two-seat runabout or Kangoo minivan, you’ll have to be content with buying the car but renting the battery pack directly from Renault. At least, in most European countries, that is.

Renault says battery leasing is here to stay... outside of Norway, that is.

Renault says battery leasing is here to stay… outside of Norway, that is.

This week, several sites have carried the rumor that amidst falling sales figures and tough competition from rival electric cars like the Nissan LEAF, Renault was considering a switch away from its mandated battery rental model. Having talked to Renault ourselves however, we can confirm that for the French automaker, battery rental is here to stay.

The rumor

Originating from InsideEVs, the rumor suggested that Renault was looking to boost its low electric car sales figures by switching from an unpopular battery rental system — where owners pay a monthly rental charge to Renault in exchange for guaranteed battery reliability, service and life — to a sales model in which the battery is included in the price of the vehicle.

Citing an interview between the New York Times and Jérôme Stoll, head of sales for Renault, InsideEVs suggested that a recently-introduced low-useage rental tariff for ZOE drivers was a sign that battery rental would soon give way to more traditional purchase models.

This was already apparent, the site said, because Renault was already offering its ZOE electric car in Norway with the battery pack included. Here’s what the site predicted:

Our prediction is that slowly but surely Renault will abandon the battery rental program in favor of outright selling its EVs.  The automaker’s dwindling EV sales will convince it to make the switch. As nearly all of of our commenters have mentioned, this battery rental idea is what’s holding Renault back.  Look for it to change soon.

Norway “A special case”

Having talked to Renault directly, we can tell you that its decision to sell the ZOE electric car in Norway with the battery pack included is an exception to the rule.That’s because Norway offers the best purchase incentives in the world for anyone buying an electric car, including zero purchase tax, free parking and charging, and permission to drive your electric car in bus lanes.

The Renault Zoe is available in Norway with its battery included.

The Renault Zoe is available in Norway with its battery included.

Under existing law, Renault’s battery lease model would be eligible for the usual Value Added Tax (VAT) added to the price of services and goods in Norway, because it would be offered separate from the car. In order to compete directly with its rivals in the marketplace, Renault made the decision in Norway to sell the car with the battery pack, enabling it to be eligible for the special tax exemption.

Leasing to remain for other markets

“We still see battery rental as the most advantageous solution for customers,” said Renault in an official email to Transport Evolved yesterday. “However, battery leasing is as a whole excluded from the Norwegian incentive. In so far as the evolution of this principle is not planned for 2014, our position is less favorable than on all other markets.”

It’s worth pointing out too that outright battery purchase is only offered by Renault on its ZOE electric car. Since the Kangoo Z.E. is a commercial vehicle and therefore its owners can claim back any VAT added to the battery rental, Renault still operates a battery lease model for its Kangoo Z.E. customers in Norway.

Similarly, the tiny Twizy, technically a quadricycle rather than a car, does not fall under the same incentives as full-size electric cars. As a consequence it too is offered with battery leasing instead of purchasing in Norway.

For now then, the message is clear: Renault still believes the best way of offering affordable electric cars is to sell customers the cars but lease them the battery packs. And it isn’t about to ditch the battery rental model for outright ownership.

Will it ever? That’s a tough one, but if our conversations with Renault executives over the past few years are anything to go by, we’d say battery rental for all of Renault’s electric fleet is around to stay. 

But which do you prefer, and why?  Have you been put off buying a Renault because of the battery lease price? Or do you think leasing the battery is the best way to ensure you’ll never be left with a dead battery?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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