Archive for the ‘Electric car’ Category


 

Kangoo

 

 

On Friday I was treated to an update by the MD of Renault Ireland Mr. Eric Basset concerning the state of play when it comes to the Zero Emission future. As I wrote before on these pages the objective of the Renault project is “affordability” in the electric future of automobiles. To that end Mr. Basset announced the pricing for both the commercial Kangoo and the Fluence.

Back in July this year I got to test both cars which at the time were still prototypes and I was left with the feeling that I’d just seen the future of the city car, well today I see the future of electric transport and it comes from France.

Renault have decided to make a bold move of leasing the batteries that power all of the models, which means you buy the car and rent the batteries, this also means as new batteries come on stream you’ll be able to get upgrades, at the end of the battery life when it needs to be recycled Renault will look after that too.

The pricing for the Fluence is going to be very good, remember that the Fluence ZE is the same car that you see on the roads in Ireland at the moment, the electric version is to be priced around the same level as the current diesel model, it goes like this

RRP: €26,620, the Government will give €5,000 towards the purchase which makes it €21,620 which puts a couple of hundred Euro over the price of the mid range Fluence dynamique diesel. The leasing of the battery will cost €72 per month with a limit of 15,000kms, if you add to that the cost of charging the battery the total cost of ownership should work out the same as a diesel variant.

The Kangoo ZE is €20,000 exc VAT, again the government will give an incentive making the van €15,870, the same lease teems apply on the battery.

It’s a new method for selling a car, it’s all new even the car. It’s the intention of Renault to become a one stop shop even being able to sell insurance.

I have always derided EV cars on two fronts, the first was the purchase price, all of them are far more expensive than their alternative petrol model but Renault has addressed this with the affordability for everyone, the other problem was range.

The range of these cars is no better than anyone else, but Renault unlike every other manufacturer are bit researching and making the batteries, the leasing of the batter makes a lot of sense as currently to purchase one of these battery units runs to some €10,000 or more. Plus batter technology is moving so fast that if you bought a Nissan Leaf right now that can do 180kms and in twelve months time a new battery comes out that can make the Leaf do 250kms, where does that leave you?

With Renault you lease the battery, so when a better one comes along you just head to a Renault dealer and get your battery swapped, plus your old one gets recycled.

There will be 1500 charging stations to be installed country wide and mapping technology is being researched that will allow you to no only plan your route via the charging stations but will tell you if the stations are in use.

Such is the interest in the Renaults that more staff is coming on board to deal with the volume of enquiries, there’s two more models to come yet, the two seat and four wheel Twizzy along with the Zoe a medium sized hatchback that will be unveiled in Geneva this coming March.

I really do thing Renault have hit the nail on the head with the complete package for EV ownership, expect to see lots of these cars on the roads of Ireland.

 

Twizy

 

 

 

Advertisements

Eighteen months ago the Greens declared war on the car and its first casualty was the Family.
You see, if you had more than two nippers and a dog or vise versa and couldn’t afford two cars, then a people carrier or MPV was the man for you.
It made so much sense that manufacturers worldwide invested billions, and after a couple of years, we started to warm to this new phenomena – and dare I say it, even like them.
Initially, critics and motoring hacks (myself included) dismissed them as being mini vans which drove, handled and were about as pleasant to be in as, erm, a mini van.
That mindset changed when Ford launched the C-Max in 2003 – which was basically a re-engineered Focus MK II – already a massive hit with Irish motorists catapulting the brand into the best sellers.
Fast forward to July 2008 and the tree-hugging, sandal-wearing, lentil-chomping saviours of the planet came up with a new tax regime which made all MPVs, and the family, Public Enemy Number 1.
The omissions-based VRT/road tax put buying a new MPV so expensive to buy and run that punters were looking at going back to the old two car-car scenario.
Thankfully, Ford have come to the rescue yet again … and this time they’ve brought reinforcements.
Yep, not only do we get a leaner, greener and meaner C-Max but it also get a big brother in the guise of the 7-seat Grand C-Max.
The boys over at the Blue Oval badge have left nothing to chance as the competition in this segment is savage.
They’ve learned that in these much leaner times, buyers, especially those with growing families, are the most diverse and complex.
It’s not a case of one size fits all and, just like the mums who’ll mainly drive them, it will have to be able to multi task.
This choice is not just a car or mode of transport – it’s practically a member of the family.
It will not only have to ferry the little darlings (and neighbours and pals) to school, to ballet, football, discos, it will also have to cope with baby seats, shopping/buggies, the kitchen sink etc.
The brief was simple; make it bigger, better and above all, cheaper.
The result?
Mission accomplished!
To be fair, they had a bulletproof template to build on.
The old model was a true drivers car thanks to its high driving position, great flexibility and of course, being a Focus clone, it was a rollicking good rided.
The same applies here except it’s even better.
The 5-seat C-Max handled like a dream on the winding mountain roads of Nice and she cruised like a luxury saloon on motorways.
Big brother, lost a little of the refined handling thankls to the longer chassis and even higher roof line, but what it lacked in agility it made up for in torque thanks to the 140bhp diesel engine.
But it is the simplicity of the design which will win over any doubters.
Functionality is the key word here.
Take the revamped floor plan in the 7-seater which is genius.
The 2 plus 2 plus 2 arrangement and fold away seventh seats is so much easier.
It also eradicated the old sibling squabble over who doesen’t want to sit in the middle.
Sliding doors on both sides makes parking and getting kids in and out easy peasy.
Seat belt sensors on all the rear buckles means you know all on board are safely secure.
Throw in a power operated tailgate – which at the touch of a button opens and close the boot and you’re in heaven.
One optional extra well worth checking out is the Active Park Assist.
This piece of kit (normally found on BMWs and Lexus) will scan a parking space and if large enough, will actually parallel park the car for you.
It’s a must considering it costs less than €800 and unlike other gadgets, you’ll use it more than once.
Only diesel versions will go on sale here with a 1.6L, 95bhp  proving the most popular as the C-Max in Band A and
Grand Band B. The 2.0L 140bhp are both in Band B while  a 115bhp automatic is in band C for both.
Standard spec on the Activ includes alloys heated windscreen electric windows, CD Rear parking sensors, folding mirrors and rear seatbelt minder.
Other driver assistance technologies include Blind Spot Information System, Speed Limiter and Hill Start Assist The new range will be in Irish showrooms later this month, just in time for the January rush  and Ford promise that  a full- and plug-in hybrid models will be here in 2013.
Priced at €23,600, its a bargain considering the outgoing model is the same price, but without all those goodies.

It’s not often I don’t like the look of a car before I’ve seen the one I’m going to spend a week with, the Fluence is one of those cars. I’d seen a few around the roads before I get a chance to drive one myself. The first drive I had of the Fluence was a couple of months back at the Renault ZE road show, I got to take one of the million Euro prototypes out on the roads around Carton house. I was greatly impressed with the electric version, but I wasn’t too happy with the look of the outside. It looks too high off the road, but this car was originally designed to be an electric car, so aerodynamics are playing a heavy roll in the look of the car.

The model I had for testing is the Tom Tom edition, that’s about as high a spec as you can get. There’s built in Sat-Nav, keyless entry/exit and start, dual zone climate control to name but a few, there is also the most comfortable seats I’ve ever had the great pleasure to sit in, you would have to go a few classes above to beat the comfort in the Fluence.

The boot has a great shape, it’s wide at the opening and gets a little narrower, it’s 530ltr can cope with just about any shape, and can happily take two prams and all the stuff that kids need. There’s also two shopping bag hooks that can keep your shopping where it should be; in the bags.

The back seat can cope with 3 adults, or as in my case, one adult and two child seats. Most important is the comfort in the back, there’s loads of leg and headroom, there’s also a pull down armrest in the middle that has cup holders built in.

Up front the dash is made out of fantastic materials, in fact the materials look like they are out of a car well above the Fluence class. Everything is where it should be in a Renault, I still think the radio has too many buttons and the steering wheel stalk is over complicated, but you soon get used to finding the buttons you need most.

My first drive took me on the motorway, the 1.5 diesel unit puts out 106bhp and I find it a little noisy during acceleration but that’s the nature of diesel engines. In the Fluence once you get up to speed you can’t hear the engine anymore, there’s no sound at 100kph and very little at 120kph. Testament to its aerodynamic background, there’s very little wind noise either. On the Motorway the Fluence is sublime, that huge comfy seat, firm suspension and a tonne of elbow room means that this is simply the best long distance cruiser. It’s no slouch in the corners either, for a big saloon it handles really well; you would really want to throw it into a corner before it looses any grip. Even at low speeds there’s nothing wrong in the Fluence, there’s no wobble over flat top speed bumps and it’s easy to park thanks to the good visibility and parking sensors on the rear.

I said in the video that the Fluence was the best car I’d driven all year; I meant it. There’s nothing in its price range with the same room and spec that you can get for the price of €23,500 before any discounts or a trade in. Yes it looks a little odd at first but if you see it in the right colour (black or White) it’s a handsome car. Renault didn’t go about trying to re-invent the saloon market, what they did was take all the good bits from saloons and tweak them, making every thing a little better. For me crucially, it’s original and that makes a huge difference because I don’t like driving around in one of the other Euro-boxes that inhabit Irish roads currently. Here’s the best endorsement I can give the Fluence, I want to order one for next January.


Sorry this video is up a little late today, I couldn’t get out of some meetings. Text review tomorrow, I promise. It’s a great car too, watch the video you’ll see why.


Electric vehicles have been around a very long time, somewhere in the first half of the 18th century Robert Anderson of Scotland invented the first crude electric carriage, since then we’ve had milk floats, delivery trucks, fork lifts and all manner of bikes. The motor industry really only dabbled in battery powered cars, usually modifying one of their current line up to run on electricity before scrapping the idea. Not until the last few years has any major research gone into battery power, mainly because of laptops and mobile phones, there was no point in having a laptop if you could only use it for a few minutes before you needed to charge it again, the same applied to cars. Most of the incarnations of electric vehicles out there run on truck batteries, now I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to pick up a truck battery but they weigh a ton, but the only way to provide more power was to put in more batteries which made things like fork lifts weigh literally tonnes.

You can’t do this to cars, because you need somewhere to put things in cars and if you have a boot full of huge batteries you have a problem. So the car industry noticed that laptops were able to stay on for a couple of hours at a time using a very small power supply, and some one decided to link lots of these batteries together giving us the very modern electric cars.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote on these very pages about the Renault ZE road show, it was great to see a company get so enthusiastic about a product, they seem to really believe this is the current way forward.  At the moment there isn’t a proper alternative to our petrol and diesel cars, sure there’s hydrogen but in all seriousness it’s going to be years before you’ll see any cars in showrooms that can run on the stuff, whereas batteries are already here.

Tonight it was the turn of Nissan to show the Irish public the Leaf, they invited everyone from every medium using Twitter, Facebook, newspapers even the radio to get as many people to the Grand Canal Theatre for tonight’s launch.

It’s a fantastic setting around the Theatre, I’m sure that’s why Nissan choose it, all the people milling around gave a nice buzz to the launch. At 10pm the lights were turned out and a wall opposite the covered car came to life with a huge video playing, the DJ put on some rumbly music and the tension mounted. There were men on stilts dressed as some kind of alien moving around point lasers at the kids, the tension mounted even more when the music got a bit more bass in it, the crowed hushed and with great pomp and splendour, that included some dry ice the covers were lifted off the Nissan Leaf. The young man who stood next to me said “Is that it?”

That’s the crux for Nissan, what they are launching looks for all the world like a normal family hatchback, it’s not like they are launching some kind of sports car that will give the young lads a wet dream, or make the older guys feel younger, it’s just a normal car. There are however some major differences between driving a Leaf and driving a normal car. The biggest of these differences is obviously that the Leaf is wholly electric powered, there is a theoretical limit of 160kms, but in real life that will be far less when you take into account hills, stop-start driving, passengers and the biggest factor of all, driving style. If you rip along between the traffic lights you will eat the electricity, but if you take care when driving you never know you just might get the 160kms out of the little car.

Nissan say the estimated annual charging cost will be €232, and that’s cheap. They also say there’ll be a quick charge station every 60km (approx) on all national routes; they will also put a free home charging point for the first 2000 customers.

There’s a huge effort gone into the launch of the Leaf in Ireland, but there will have to be an effort put by the future owners, you will have to learn a new way of driving to get the best out of the Leaf, still it’s great to see a car company put on a great show for the public, I wish all at Nissan Ireland the best of luck with the venture.

You can reserve your new Leaf at www.nissan.ie/nissanleaf you need to pay a full refundable €232.

You can see and drive the Nissan Leaf at various locations around Ireland, log on to www.nissan.ie for more details and to book a test drive.

I’ll have a video up later