Tuesday, February 26, 2013.

Renault Zoe: The Eletric Supermini for Everyday Use

Renault ZOE heralds the start of a new era, one in which electric mobility becomes available to everybody. It marks a major step forwards for the automotive industry and also for Renault. Throughout its 115 years of history, the brand has shown its ability to innovate and to bring technology within everybody’s reach. ZOE is the emblem of Renault’s strategic plan – Drive the Change 2016 – and the spearhead of the Renault Z.E. range. It combines all Renault’s electrical expertise in a compact and attractive design with an affordable price. Revealed at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, Renault ZOE arrived on the market in France at the end of 2012, prior to its rollout across the network in March 2013. It will be launched in other European countries over the following months.

Designed from the start as an all-electric vehicle, Renault ZOE is a supermini of clean, flowing lines. The distinctive front end expresses the new brand identity with its friendly, appealing looks. The blue effect of the logo, headlamps and dark-tinted windows identify ZOE as an electric car. Reflecting the concept of purity, the cabin aims to create a relaxing, zen feel with materials that are soft to the touch.

A design adventure dating back to the end of 2008

At the end of January 2008 at the Davos Forum, Carlos Ghosn announced the ambition of the Renault brand to market a range of four electric vehicles. The flagship model was project X10, a supermini designed as an all-electric vehicle, intended for mass marketing. This far-reaching mission was placed in the hands of the pre-project teams, who confirmed its technical and economic feasibility on December 16, 2008. This marked the starting point of the design process, organized on a competition basis. The brief presented on January 21, 2009 stated that the design should be “friendly and reassuring for an innovative, responsible all-electric vehicle”.

ZOE, a car with a difference

The first creative proposals adopted an extremely radical approach. Designers saw the new electrical era as a great opportunity to reinvent the car. Nevertheless, little by little, studies gradually converged towards a more rational approach. The transition from internal combustion to electric power would already mark a major break in customer habits, so it was important for the styling of ZOE not to be too perplexing. The aim was to design a car with a difference, but reflecting the formal cues of automotive design in its lines and proportions, so that it would be immediately accepted.

“To convey the car’s relations with the environment, designers sought inspiration in the forces of nature and the elements. The car had to be expressed in moving rather than static form, driven by clean, natural energy. The inspiration boards in the design offices showed pictures of intense, stormy skies, raging seas or the pure lines of winter landscapes.” Agneta Dahlgren-Hermine – Zoe Design Project Manager

Lines expressing purity and emotion

The winning drawing was by Jean Sémériva. Two key words guided his digital penwork: purity and emotion. Purity, in the lines that seem to run the length of the car’s body, and emotion, in its agile, dynamic allure. The car had a reassuring and dynamic look with its compact, sculpted forms, 2,588 mm wheelbase and raised waistline.

“We wanted to design a car in motion and made for motion. Where one line stops, another begins. The design of ZOE was addressed as a whole, like a drop of water. It has no corners or cut-off points.” Jean Sémériva, exterior designer of Renault ZOE.

A car that is visibly electric

ZOE is immediately identifiable as an electric vehicle, with the blue effect of the Renault logo and headlamps and the blue dark-tinted windows across the range. Unusually on a production car, the rear lights are transparent with blue concentric edging. They turn red only on braking and when the lights are switched on at night. This makes the overall body colour appear more uniform.

Friendly, appealing looks

When Laurens Van Den Acker arrived in 2009, he made major design changes, modifying the front end to reflect the new brand identity. As a result, ZOE features slender dual-halogen headlights and a larger logo, contrasting with the black grille. The wide smiling air intake with two dimples on either side for the daytime running lights, give ZOE a friendly, appealing look.

On July 28, 2009 in the presentation room at the Technocentre in Guyancourt, Jean Sémériva, presented his work to management team, receiving a highly enthusiastic reaction. His design carries his signature: a thumbprint in relief on the exterior handle of the rear doors, concealed in the rear pillar.

Customer tests began in March 2010. The prototype presented at this time closely matched the model that would be brought to market at end-2012. Again, the reaction was highly enthusiastic.

A relaxing, zen interior ambience

The interior design of ZOE is the work of Dominique Marzolf whose first sketches also expressed the theme of purity. The dashboard is carved from a single block, in clean, taut lines. The same approach is visible in the fascia strip, which resembles the blade of a wind turbine.

This component uses a material that is new to the automotive industry, soft to the touch and inspired by the world of home design. The pure, relaxing ambience is underlined by the use of pastel colour schemes in the cabin – on the Life and Zen versions – and by the presence of advanced technology. The 7” screen of the Renault R-Link console appears to float in front of the dashboard, while the TFT (Thin Film Transistor) screen on the control panel hints at ZOE’s high-tech content.

The seats feature built-in headrests, with pale textile upholstery (on the Zen version) treated with Teflon® stain  protection for easy cleaning. The identity of ZOE as a zero-emission vehicle is shown by the initials Z.E. on the gear knob and on the driver’s seat headrest. A pictogram resembling a printed circuit can be seen on the roof lining and on the dashboard.

ZOE, the first production electric vehicle with a homologated range of 210 km (NEDC)

Renault ZOE is able to cover between 100 and 150 km depending on driving style and weather conditions, giving it the longest range in its category. In homologation tests based on a standardized NEDC cycle, Renault ZOE is the only electric vehicle with a range of over 200 km (210 km). This performance can be attributed to the Range OptimiZEr system fitted on all ZOE models, which boots vehicle range by almost 25%.

The Range OptimiZEr system comprises three major technical innovations, each of which makes an equal one-third contribution to increasing the range of ZOE:
• new-generation regenerative braking,
• a heat pump,
• and Michelin EnergyTM E-V tyres.

New-generation regenerative braking recharges the battery during the deceleration and braking phase

Regenerative braking enables the motor to act as a generator. When the driver releases the accelerator pedal, the motor recovers kinetic energy from deceleration and turns it into an electric current that recharges the battery. This energy would otherwise be lost as heat when the brake pads clamp together.

To maximize power savings during braking, Renault joined forces with Bosch to develop a new-generation system. This system intelligently distributes braking force between the clamping of the brake pads and the engine brake in order to maximize the action of the engine brake in charging the battery. The action of these two components is fine-tuned in order to prevent jolts or pronounced engine braking when on the move.

The heat pump maintains the range of ZOE when the heating is in use

Inspired by home development, this innovation is now available for the first time on a production car. The operating principle was already well known. The difficulty lay in adapting it to a car. Special control algorithms were developed to take account of the thermal inertial and power of a vehicle interior.
  • To cool the cabin, the system works in the same way as a normal electric air conditioning system.
  • To heat the cabin, the system reverses the cycle of operation. It traps calories in the ambient air outside the vehicle, compresses and heats them, then directs the heat into the car.

This system lets the driver heat the cabin without impacting vehicle range. Limiting the energy consumption of the heating system significantly reduces disparities in the range of ZOE during the cold or warm seasons. For an equivalent level of heating, the heat pump consumes up to three times less energy than a conventional system.

The required cabin temperature is reached more quickly and maintained at a more stable level than in an ICE vehicle, where the heating depends on the calories given off by the engine.


This function provides reassurance. It maintains the range of ZOE by reducing the performance of the air conditioning and heating, as well as motor power. It is activated by a switch on the central console. The bottom of the TFT screen turns green and the ECO acronym appears.

If the driver needs stronger acceleration, when overtaking for example, the function can be deactivated by pressing down hard on the accelerator pedal.

The Chameleon charger for a faster charge

Patented by Renault, this revolutionary charger adapts to the power supply available, single-phase or three-phase, up to 43 kW. Renault ZOE can thus charge its battery to a level of 80% in 30 minutes. Chameleon also has the unique advantage of being able to charge ZOE at varying levels of power: for example, at 11 kW (a charge of around two hours) or 22 kW (80% of the battery for a one-hour charge). These intermediate power levels maintain battery service life more effectively and have less impact on the grid than a “fast” charge (43 kW). Europe currently has more than 4,000 11 or 22 kW charging stations, referred to as “fast charging stations”. In Germany, most public charging stations (mode 3) are of the fast-charging type.


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