New Motor, Power Electronics for Renault ZOE Electric Car Cuts Home Charging Time, Improves Range

As we first detailed back in December, Renault has been working hard to increase the performance and energy efficiency of the electric motor in its ZOE electric hatchback for some time now, promising better range and more efficient charging capabilities over the first-generation power unit.

The newly-designed motor and inverter is 10 percent lighter, far more energy efficient and enables quicker charge times.

The newly-designed motor and inverter is 10 percent lighter, far more energy efficient and enables quicker charge times.

It would be smaller, lighter, and more capable, Renault had promised, but now we know what the real-world implications of the redesigned power train and power electronics will have on everyday driving: a massive 10 percent quicker to charge from a domestic charging station and capable of an additional 19 miles (30) kilometers of range.

That equates to a new overall range of 149 miles (240 kilometers) per charge, something that Renault says puts its ZOE at the top of its class for energy efficiency. We should note however that those figures, quoted according to NEDC methodology, are likely to be a little over-optimistic and real-world range is likely to be somewhere between 90 and 120 miles per charge, dependent on road conditions and speed.

Renault — which built all of the race cars used for the inaugural Formula E race season — says its time working with Formula E cars has helped it develop a smaller, more efficient motor that is ten percent smaller than its predecessor yet can still output a 65 kilowatts of power and 162 pound feet of torque.

Part of the downsizing was made possible by redesigning the various modules and power electronics from the original ZOE motor, removing some of the gaps between modules, tidying up cabling and switching a lot of the motor cooling from liquid cooling to air cooling. In fact, only the power electronic controller is still water-cooled.

Renault says its time with Formula E helped it to develop the more efficient unit.

Renault says its time with Formula E helped it to develop the more efficient unit.

The motor — codenamed R240 by Renault — is so much smaller that the automaker hints it could be used in smaller, more compact vehicles, making us wonder out loud if we’ll soon see the new motor employed in Renault’s diminutive Twingo City Car.

Improvements in the motor aren’t just limited to its power drive circuitry however. Like the previous generation Renault ZOE power electronics system, the revised system features Renault’s famous Chameleon charger: an on-board charging system which leverages the motor control hardware to facility high-speed recharge at a variety of mains power inputs from a standard single-phase domestic charging station through to a dedicated three-phase AC rapid charging unit.

The previous version of the Chameleon charger could charge the ZOE’s battery pack from empty to full in around 30 minutes using a dedicated three-phase, 43-kilowatt AC rapid charging unit and one hour using a 22-kilowatt, three-phase charging station. But while it could plug-in at any official ‘type 2’ charging station to charge, it couldn’t charge from a standard household outlet. When plugged into a lowly 3 kilowatt domestic charging station, it was particularly inefficient, since the charging system was tuned for higher-power charging stations.

That, concedes Renault, was a mistake, and it has worked hard to improve charging times on a lowly 3 kilowatt charging station, slashing 10 percent off charging times when using 3 kilowatt and 11 kilowatt public charging stations.

ZOE owners can now look forward to up to 147 miles of claimed NEDC range, says Renault.

ZOE owners can now look forward to up to 147 miles of claimed NEDC range, says Renault.

The casualty? 43 kilowatt on-board AC charging, which the newer, smaller unit does not support. It will however, still charge at up to 22 kilowatts, three-phase, where appropriate infrastructure exists. That also means that the Reanult ZOE can no-longer charge in half an hour, making it less suited to inter-city trips than cars fitted with the first-generation charging system.

We’re curious to know what you think of this change. Do you think the increased range will make up for the lack of 43 kilowatt three-phase charging capabilities? Does the more efficient, longer-range ZOE tempt you to buy one? Or would you worry about long-distance travel?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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