When the Renault-Nissan alliance launched their very first mass-produced electric cars nearly seven years ago — the Nissan LEAF and Renault ZOE respectively — both cars were fairly evenly matched on range per charge thanks to the fact that their battery packs were within 2 kilowatt-hours of each other in terms of capacity.
Since then, both cars have enjoyed marginal increases in range due to refinements in power electronics and improved motor efficiency, but last year Nissan leapfrogged its alliance partner by announcing a new higher energy-density 30 kWh pack for 2016 Nissan LEAF. Optional in Europe and standard in the U.S. on higher-trim models, it pushed the Nissan LEAF’s official range up from 84 miles to 107 miles on the EPA test cycle — or up from 120 miles to 250 miles on the overly-optimistic NEDC test cycle — leaving the Renault ZOE far behind in terms of range per charge.
Today at the Paris Motor Show, Renault changed that dramatically by announcing a new 41 kWh lithium-ion battery pack for the 2017 Renault ZOE which it says will increase the NEDC-approved range to somewhere between 300 and 400 kilometers per charge (185-250 miles). That, says the French automaker, will make the Renault ZOE the longest-range mass-produced car you can buy in Europe when it goes on sale later this year.
The new battery pack comes courtesy of LG Chem, Renault’s preferred battery partner, whose next-generation lithium-ion cell chemistry is also responsible for the massive 60 kilowatt-hour battery pack and 236-mile EPA range of the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV.
Like its alliance partner Nissan, Renault plans to keep the previous-generation battery pack available to customers who order the entry-level Renault ZOE. This, we hope, will result in an entry-level price drop for those seeking to buy their first electric car.
While pricing for the whole of Europe has not been released yet, Renault has announced pricing for its launch market of France. As in previous model year cars, the Renault ZOE differs from most electric cars since Renault prefers to lease the car’s battery pack to customers separately from the sticker price. This means on paper a 41 kWh Renault ZOE Life Range can be purchased for €23,600 after tax but before incentives or battery rental price. Add in battery rental (which starts from €69 per month for 7,500 kilometers per year) and the price does start to move skyward. We should note however that the battery rental cost is still cheaper than gasoline in some markets if the car is primarily charged at home.
At the other end of the price range, a fully-loaded Renault ZOE SL Edition One Quick Charge — which includes the usual high-end packages — will set you back €28,500 including taxes but before incentives or battery rental.
Real-world range? Unlike other automakers, Renault does try to be reasonably transparent in its range estimations, which is why it quotes a ‘real world’ 185 miles range alongside the official NEDC rating of 250 miles in its press releases. Given that the battery pack on the new Renault ZOE is almost twice the size of the previous generation pack — and the real-world range of the previous model was around 85 miles in mixed driving, we have no reason to doubt Renault’s more conservative range estimate given the lower-weight and higher energy density of the new pack.
Although the new 41 kWh battery pack for the Renault ZOE won’t quite give the compact family car the kind of range it needs to beat the upcoming Chevrolet Bolt EV (which will be sold in all mainland European countries as the Opel Ampera-e) it will certainly give Renault a commanding lead on its alliance partner Nissan for the time being. It will also likely give the automaker a much-needed sales boost as it prepares to fight longer-range variants of cars like the Volkswagen e-Golf and BMW i3.
As for Nissan? While we know a longer-range Nissan LEAF is now most certainly in the works, we also feel the pressure is well and truly on for Nissan to deliver sooner rather than later — or risk losing the electric car dominance it’s enjoyed for the last six years.
Do you think the new Renault ZOE has enough range? Do you think it will change the next plug-in car you will buy? Or is 185 miles simply not enough for your needs?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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