Two years ago, Renault’s all-electric ZOE five-door hatchback hit the market in Europe. Smaller than the Nissan LEAF, the ZOE features a 65 kilowatt electric motor, seating for five, and can be charged from empty to full in around 30 minutes using its unique Chameleon on-board charger and a compatible three-phase AC rapid charging station. But while the Renault ZOE made a name for itself with its unique and versatile on-board charger — which can charge the on-board battery pack with any power source from 3 kilowatts single-phase to 45 kilowatts three-phase — every Renault ZOE sold in Europe (excluding Norway) comes with a catch.
You have to buy the car, and lease the battery. To date, only Norwegian ZOE customers have been allowed to purchase their car and its battery pack in order to capitalise on Norway’s generous electric car incentives. Everywhere else, you’ve had to lease the battery pack.
But it appears that’s about to change with the news that Renault is about to announce a new purchase option for its popular electric supermini that would enable customers to buy the car’s battery pack at the same time as they buy the car.
According to UK electric vehicle forum SpeakEV, Renault is about to announce a whole new vehicle purchase option for the Renault ZOE which would enable drivers to buy their car’s battery pack, or to continue to carry on with Renault’s previous arrangement where customers buy the car but lease the battery pack separately from Renault on a rolling monthly contract.
“I wrote to Ken Ramirez at Renault UK about his announcement that Zoe batteries are going to be an optional purchase. This afternoon his office range to confirm it, and are just saying ‘watch this space”, said one ZOE owner on the forum. “What I did get from the conversation was an overwhelming affirmation that it’s happening and we’ll be able to buy a Zoe with a battery fairly shortly. Who knows, perhaps they’ll also relax and reconfigure the lease premiums.”
When the ZOE first launched, Renault used its standard battery lease program — used across its entire Z.E. electric car range — as a way to help advertise the ZOE as an affordable, fun family hatchback. Without the expensive battery pack included in the list price, the Renault ZOE’s sticker price fell to just £13,650 ($21,784) for the base model after UK electric car purchase incentives, making it far more attractive to mainstream car buyers.
Behind the headline however, came a mandatory battery lease, calculated according to the number of miles the customer expected to travel per year and starting at £70 ($111) per month.
In exchange for paying the monthly battery lease fee, Renault promised to take care of each and every battery leased under the scheme, ensuring any battery packs which fell below 70 per cent of their original capacities would be replaced free of charge, regardless of battery age or vehicle mileage. The battery lease program also covered customers for the costs associated with servicing and maintaing the battery pack.
But with battery leasing set to carry on for the entire length of ownership, many would-be ZOE customers were put off by the prospect of driving an electric car they would never completely own. What’s more, Renault’s battery lease agreement added an extra layer of complexity when selling the car on, requiring the new owner to assume the lease program of the previous owner before a sale could be fully completed.
Across Europe, battery leasing has become an accepted ownership model for many different brands of electric cars, including the Nissan LEAF, the Volkswagen e-Golf and e-Up!, and the Smart ForTwo ED. But while these automakers also offer battery leasing arrangements similar to the one operated by Renault, they are offered alongside outright purchase plans, where customers can opt to buy the car’s battery pack alongside the car should they wish.
If it is indeed adopting a lease-or-buy model, Renault is simply bring itself in line with other European-market automakers.
“We are looking at this possibility,” said a Renault spokesperson when we contacted Renault for official comment on the story. “We will issue a press release as and when there is anything to announce.”
Does the prospect of Renault opening up its ownership model to include outright battery ownership excite you? Would you be tempted to buy a Renault ZOE if you were able to buy the car with the battery pack? Or perhaps you’re already a ZOE owner who would pay to end the monthly battery rental fee?
More importantly, does this mean battery rental schemes are dying?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
[hat-tip: Sean Fosberry]
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