By Tom Roberts
The Renault Zoe is an incredibly capable electric car with a stated WLTP range of up to 238 miles. Now that’s impressive all on its own, but we’re pretty sure it can go further. In fact, we’re positive it can, because I made a 210-mile journey on a single home charge and still had an indicated range of 35 miles left in the battery by the time he reached his destination. Vanarama’s resident Zoe driver Tom Roberts reports...
Leasing a Renault Zoe was an easy decision – a small electric car for less than £300 per month, 238 miles of stated WLTP range and no more queuing at petrol pumps; what’s not to like? I’m not overstating things when I say that having an EV has changed my life – it’s saved me money and made me feel like I’m doing my bit for the environment. It also fits my family-driving needs perfectly – I have a young son who I’m constantly buzzing about to various events and those shorter journeys just seem easier on electric power.
Ever since the day it turned up, however, I wanted to give it a proper test. My feeling is that if an EV is to work as a primary vehicle in a family, it needs to handle the small stuff AND be capable of doing the occasional long drives we all need to do once in a while. This is how I ended up driving it 210 miles from Hemel Hempstead to the south-western tip of the Gower Peninsula in Wales on a single charge. Spoiler alert – it made it!
The Renault Zoe In Focus
My Zoe is the ‘beefier’ R135 version with a 100kW (136hp) powertrain, this resulting in a 0-62mph time of 9.5 seconds and a top speed of 87mph – it also has the upgraded charging port so that it can accept DC charging at rapid chargers. The Zoe is also available in a base model with an 80kW (109hp) motor with a 0-62mph time of 11.4 seconds and a capped top speed of 84mph. It’s a comfortable and quiet EV with enough speed to make you feel like if you need to move fast, you can.
It’s hard to believe the Zoe is more than a decade old, because this latest version feels incredibly modern. The interior is comfortable and functional with surprisingly large storage areas for a car so small. The driver’s seat is also one of the few car seats to not give me backache on a long-distance trip. The boot is big enough to fit 2 reasonably sized suitcases alongside 2 rucksacks with space to spare, and the back seat is the right size for kids and average-sized people – although foot space is usually determined by who’s driving.
On this occasion, I wasn’t alone. My best mate hopped in the passenger seat and came with me for a weekend on the beaches of South Wales… for science. The route was relatively simple: Hemel Hempstead to the M1, M1 to M25, M25 to the M4 for the majority of the journey, before turning off into Swansea and then following local roads to the south coast of Gower. Not the most taxing journey from a navigational viewpoint, but it’s a 210-mile journey – in an EV that under test conditions has achieved 238 miles – at mostly motorway speeds. When we set off, I had an indicated 100% charge and the dash read 236 miles of range.
Challenge Leg 1
126 Miles From Hemel Hempstead To Moto Severn View Services – 2.5 Hours
Within the first 20 minutes of getting onto the M25 from Hemel, I learned a valuable lesson in battery power conservation. The best advice I can give anyone driving a Renault Zoe (or indeed any EV with a 200-mile range) is this: cruise control will drain your battery fast, so don’t use it on a motorway.
If you’re on a sub-100-mile journey in a Renault Zoe, feel free to use cruise control as much as you like because you’ll find somewhere to charge at your destination. But if you’re on a longer journey like this one, don’t use it and switch regenerative braking on. By doing this, I found the natural ebb and flow of speed on the motorway – power on, lift off – kept an intermittent flow of charge heading back to the battery. And this early change is undoubtedly what kept the car going for so long and helped me ‘win’ the challenge. It’s strange to think of winning as just not getting stranded with no charge in my battery – but there we go.
The drive passed easily until we stopped at the Moto Severn View services for breakfast, and by that point I had 110 miles of charge left with 80 miles left to go. For a first stretch of driving that Google Maps says is 126 miles, the first leg of the journey had gone well – although I’d used some of my range wastefully with the early use of cruise control. I was not going to do the same on the second leg of the journey.
Challenge Leg 2
80 Miles From Moto Severn View Services To Southgate Via Swansea – 1.5 Hours
Going into the second leg of the journey, I felt confident. I had 20 more miles than I needed to make it to my destination, the sun was shining and before I knew it I was off the M4 and onto the local roads of Swansea heading towards The Mumbles. I hit some traffic, but the local roads and their slower speeds meant more regenerative braking was possible.
There’s little to say about this last leg – the slower pace of movement was kinder to the battery and meant that by the time we pulled up at our destination in Gower the car still said it had 35 miles of usable range left. Do the maths:
We had a 210-mile journey to make with a max indicated range at the start of 236 miles.
236 miles minus 210 miles means that I should have had 26 miles left in the battery pack.
But the car was showing I still had 35 miles of usable range at the journey’s end, meaning the Zoe could have done a total of nearly 250 miles.
I mean, for an EV of this size, that’s amazing. I’m also confident that with careful driving I could have stretched out that remaining 36 miles to at least 40 miles, maybe more.
The Vanarama Verdict
So, what did I learn? Simply, that the Renault Zoe does exactly what it says on the tin: 238 miles of WLTP stated range is not only achievable, it’s underselling it slightly. Yes, I had warm weather which helps with the range, and I was not using the air-con (it has windows you can open instead), but I was on motorways at speeds of 65-70mph for almost 3 hours, and then local roads for 1 more hour at speeds of 20-40mph.
I am very impressed with the Zoe’s performance in this challenge and I would have no hesitation in recommending it as a small family EV to anyone who needs a car to buzz about in, and sometimes drive more than 200 miles in one hit for business or holidays.
Check out our Renault Zoe leasing deals, or take a look at this other challenge article about the time I drove a Ford Transit Custom PHEV from Hemel Hempstead to Bristol and back again.