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Renault Kangoo ZE

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Road Test

Renault Kangoo ZE

Model/Engine size: Kangoo ZE

Fuel: Electric

Fuel economy combined: N/A

Green-Car-Guide rating: 9/10

The Renault Kangoo ZE is an electric van that makes so much more sense than a petrol or diesel vehicle for short urban delivery cycles.

The Kangoo ZE has a number of advantages over a petrol or diesel vehicle. Firstly, it’s quiet. It also has excellent linear acceleration thanks to the 100% torque generated from standstill from its electric motor (making it feel much quicker than the official figures suggest). It has no gears or clutch, meaning that it’s extremely easy to drive, especially in urban areas. Of course it has zero-tailpipe emissions at all times, obviously including when stopped in the many traffic jams in cities – which is in contrast to most other vehicles which will continue to pump out pollution. Even modern cars with stop-start systems have an uncivilised mechanical intervention to get you moving again, something that’s certainly not a feature of the refined Kangoo ZE powertrain.

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It’s also a very efficient vehicle, much more so than one with an internal combustion engine, as an electric motor has an efficiency rating of 90%. In contrast, a petrol engine only has an energy efficiency rating of 25%. In other words out of 10 kWh of energy, 9 kWh are transmitted to the road with an electric vehicle, compared to only 2.5 with a petrol vehicle.

The Kangoo ZE is also very attractive from a cost point of view, being priced at only £16,990 (excluding VAT).

There’s more. It’s exempt from the London Congestion Charge and electric cars have been exempt from company car tax since April 2010, and will be until at least 2015. This means that company car drivers will pay 0% benefit-in-kind tax if they buy an electric car.

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Electric vans also benefit from van benefit charge exemption, plus the introduction of a 100% first-year allowance for companies purchasing electric vans, enabling them to offset the cost of buying an electric van against their corporation tax bill in year one.

Electricity is also between five and ten times cheaper than petrol; it should cost less than £3 to charge the Kangoo to cover its official 106 mile range.

Finally, maintenance costs of an electric vehicle are also around 20% less.

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Unfortunately the Kangoo van doesn’t benefit from the UK government’s £5000 Plug-in Car Grant incentive, although Renault is lobbying hard to change this.

There’s also an extra monthly charge for leasing the battery. The price depends upon the length of the contract and mileage per year. As an example, based on 6000 miles per year, and a three-year term, the battery lease cost is £60 per month, excluding VAT. Again, this is designed to make the vehicle more affordable, and this is based on the argument that you don’t pay for fuel for the lifetime of a petrol car when you buy the car, so why should you buy the battery upfront in an electric vehicle?

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Although the Kangoo ZE is based on the same Kangoo van that is powered by an internal combustion engine, the battery is underneath the zero-emission version, so it has a low centre of gravity, and the battery doesn’t encroach into the load bay. Thanks to this and its short overhangs, the Kangoo handles well. The steering also feels sharper than that in the electric Fluence saloon.

The Kangoo van ZE feels nippy despite the official figures suggesting otherwise. It only has 60 hp (44 Kw) of power, using the same motor that is in the Fluence, and it takes 21.9 seconds to accelerate from 0-62 mph, with a maximum speed of 81 mph. The battery weight of 260 kg can’t help with the acceleration figures, but the 226 Nm of torque certainly makes it feel faster.

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Inside, the interior is modern and there’s a simple and functional gear selector rather than the old fashioned-looking automatic transmission selector in the Fluence. The exterior also looks modern, although there’s very little to differentiate the electric van from the conventionally-powered version.

Renault estimates that 80% of Kangoo Van ZE sales will be to large fleets, with 20% bought by small businesses. Any business that plans to operate an electric vehicle will need a charging point. This will cost £799 including VAT for a typical domestic installation, when a full charge will take between 6-8 hours; for businesses, different charge points can be installed, for instance in car parks.

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As part of the leasing arrangement, Renault guarantees that the battery will always have a minimum charge capacity of 75% of the original level. You’re also covered for full recovery for any type of breakdown.

The Kangoo Van ZE has a 650 kg payload. There’s also a longer version called the Kangoo Van Maxi ZE which costs £17,990 excluding VAT. There’s even a five-seat Kangoo Van Maxi Crew Van ZE that costs £18,690 excluding VAT. This could feasibly be used as an electric MPV as it has five seats and windows, but because it is homologated as a van in the UK even this model doesn’t qualify for the UK government’s £5000 Plug-in Car Grant incentive.

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Despite the Kangoo being a van rather than a car, because it’s so fit for purpose as a car-sized urban delivery vehicle, the Kangoo ZE gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 9 out of 10.

The Kangoo Van ZE will be on sale in the UK from 1 November 2011 from a network of 20 special EV dealers. It will come with a three-year/100,000 mile warranty, with a five-year/100,000 mile warranty for the electric drivetrain.

Summary

The Kangoo ZE makes so much sense as a city runabout van that all businesses that operate such vehicles on short urban delivery cycles should replace their fleets with Kangoo ZEs. It is so much better to drive around cities than petrol or diesel vans and it’s cheap to run. Of course, apart from reducing CO2 emissions if recharged from renewable energy, the Kangoo Van ZE is hugely beneficial from the point of view of local air quality. Businesses using the Kangoo Van ZE will have a very valid claim that they are acting sustainably.

There’s also a whole variety of other applications where the Kangoo ZE range would be ideal, such as at airports. Electric cars may be getting all the media attention, but the Kangoo van actually makes more sense than most electric cars.

Paul Clarke

Fuel economy extra urban: N/A

Fuel economy urban: N/A

CO 2 emissions: 0 g/km if recharged from renewable energy

Green rating: VED band A – £0

Weight: 1410 kg

Company car tax liability (2011/12): 0%

Price: £16,990 excluding VAT (doesn’t qualify for the government’s £5,000 Plug-in Car Grant)

Insurance group: TBC

Power: 60 hp (44 Kw)

Max speed: 81 mph

0-62mph: 21.9 seconds

Read our review of the Renault Fluence ZE .

Read our review of the prototype Renault Kangoo ZE van and Renault Fluence ZE .

Renault Fluence ZE review, Renault Fluence ZE road test