Rating: 4 stars
Type: Pure electric
Range: 106 miles
Top Speed: 81mph
By Gavin Conway October 26, 2011 4:56 PM
The stretched 2011 Renault Kangoo ZE Maxi electric van turns from delivery workhorse to people carrier with extra seats and added windows. Its long wheelbase seats five but it's still classed as a commercial vehicle, so until earlier in 2012 it didn't qualify for the a state subsidy in the same way as a passenger car. Fortunately, the Kangoo Z.E. family now qualifies for a 20% discount on the sticker price under the Plug-in Van Grant, making this particular model more affordable as a family hauler, and the overall performance is impressive, reckons Gavin Conway.
While UK buyers will have to wait until mid-2012 to get their hands on the pure-electric Fluence Z.E. family saloon, there will be another five-seat pure-electric Renault on sale next month (November 2011). It’s the Kangoo Z.E. (for ‘zero emissions’) and it comes in long and short wheelbase form, with or without glazing and rear seats. TheChargingPoint.com tried out the Kangoo Z.E. Maxi Crew, the longer version with five seats and with full glazing (that's brochure speak for “it’s got windows all round”).
The base price for entry level is £18,690 but the trim level tested here will in fact set you back £23,078. The Kangoo Z.E. family now qualifies for a 20% discount (up to the value of £8,000) on the sticker price under the Plug-in Van Grant, so that brings it down to a much more reasonable £18,462.
You could use this model as a family hauler, but to be honest, it’s a bit big for the mainly urban use for which it was designed. For businesses looking for an urban delivery van for set routes, though, the Kangoo Z.E. is well worth a look. As with the Fluence Z.E., when you buy the van you own everything except the battery, which you pay a monthly lease fee for. This should completely eliminate any worries about battery life and performance over the years, as well as the impact that might have on the van’s future value. The lease contracts are quite flexible, too, ranging from 12 to 60 months with annual mileage allowances from 6000 to 15,000. Monthly lease amounts range from £60 up to £105 (that’s for a 12-month/15,000 mile contract).
As with the Fluence Z.E., the 2011 Renault Kangoo Z.E. is based on an existing diesel-powered vehicle. But because the van is so much bigger, there’s no compromise on its cargo capacity – the model we drove has a maximum payload of 650kgs.
Otherwise, what you see is what you get, a tall van with two rows of seats that will accommodate five occupants. Observers that don’t spot the ‘Z.E.’ badge on the back for the front-right charging flap will have no clue that the Kangoo is a pure-electric. That is, until it moves off and there is a total absence of the usual diesel clatter.
The Kangoo’s 44kW electric motor develops the equivalent of 59bhp and 167lb/ft of torque. The motor is fed by a 22kWh lithium ion battery that delivers a claimed range of 106 miles – Renault reckons that 70% of van drivers cover less than 62 miles a day.
The Kangoo Z.E. also features an Eco Mode, which restricts the motor's performance, and that can improve range by up to 10%. The van also features regenerative braking, which captures kinetic energy lost when slowing down. This is activated as soon as the driver lifts off the throttle – the subsequent engine braking is so aggressive that the van’s brake lights are activated automatically.
There’s also a neat optional extra that allows owners to check remotely their vehicle's battery charge and remaining range, using a smartphone or computer.
INTERIOR & COMFORT
The 2011 Renault Kangoo Z.E. Maxi Crew that we drove was actually quite a comfortable place to spend time. Obviously, there is loads of space for front seat occupants and the rear bench is equally accommodating, too. The driving position feels reassuringly car-like, and the higher seating position gives great outward vision.
Like the Fluence Z.E., the van’s controls are instantly intuitive and logically laid out. There’s a simple gauge on the left of the instrument panel that indicates the battery’s level of charge and one to the right that shows how energy is being used. Blue is normal running, dark blue means regenerative charging is happening and red means you're driving like loon (or to simplify, red equals fun, dark blue equals boring).
And because there is interior is such a large volume to heat, Renault offers and optional 5kW heater for the cabin – the heater uses diesel, which is stored in a 13-litre fuel tank and filled from the same filler cap that the diesel-powered van uses. So you can baffle other road users as you fill your pure-electric van at the pumps.
HANDLING & PERFORMANCE
Driving this van is simplicity itself. Climb aboard, turn the ignition key and slot the console mounted shift lever into ‘D’ and off you go. Performance is really brisk thanks to all that torque from zero revs, and the Kangoo gets up to speed quickly. It’s limited to 81mph, but that should be more than enough for urban and semi-rural use – and anyway, we could all do without having another speeding white van inches from our tailgates.
The 2011 Kangoo Z.E. Maxi Crew handles as you’d expect, which means a fair amount of body roll through the corners and understeer if you go into bends too quickly. The ride was bouncy, but then, this was an empty van designed to carry up to 650kgs of cargo, so fair dues.
RANGE & CHARGING
The official range for the 2011 Kangoo Z.E. Maxi is 106 miles, but Renault says a really conservative, careful driver can get up to 125 miles on a single charge. Renault also makes the point that, unlike internal combustion engines (ICE), an electric vehicle is at its most efficient when being used in cities and in heavy traffic. At a standstill, an electric motor doesn’t use any energy, and constant low-speed running means improved efficiency.
That sounds like a more likely scenario for a delivery van, so the Renault Kangoo Z.E. Maxi makes an even stronger case for its use as an urban delivery vehicle. A standard charge takes between six and eight hours.
The electric Renault Kangoo Z.E. Maxi gets the same safety kit as its ICE sibling. That means ABS brakes, seat belt pre-tensioners with load limiters and an anti-submarining contour in the seat base (stops you from sliding under the belt in a head-on collision). Optional extras include a passenger airbag and driver’s lateral airbag.
The 2011 Renault Kangoo Z.E. Maxi is more expensive up front than its diesel sibling, but the 20% Plug-in Van Grant discount takes the sting out of the tail.
It could still make a lot of sense for businesses with daily operations that fall within the van’s range on a single charge (and its 650kg payload). And as most managers have an extremely good handle on how their vehicles are being used, this shouldn’t prove difficult to calculate. As it's an electric vehicle with 'zero emissions' (yes, we know), there's also zero company car tax to pay.
As mentioned, when you buy the van you own everything except the battery, which you pay a monthly lease fee for. To recap, contracts range from 12 to 60 months with annual mileage allowances from 6,000 to 15,000. Monthly lease amounts range from £60 up to £105 (that’s for a 12-month/15,000 mile contract).
Compared to an ICE van, ‘fuel’ costs are between five and ten times lower and the further you go, the bigger the savings. Maintenance is also claimed to be 20% lower than with an ICE van – no oil changes, no filters, no timing belts.
But in your calculations, don’t forget the cost of installing a dedicated charging point.
Surprisingly good to drive and really quite versatile, the Kangoo Van Maxi Z.E. could be a great inner city workhorse – as long as the math works out. Do too little mileage and you may not reap the rewards of lower fuel and maintenance costs, too many and you won’t have the daily range (our grasp of the obvious is champion, isn’t it?).
One other benefit was pointed out to us by a fleet expert – spending hours in the smooth and quiet pure-electric Kangoo is vastly less stressful than in a clattery diesel manual-shift version. And a more relaxed driver is less likely to wrap his van around a tree, which saves no end of cash.
2011 RENAULT KANGOO Z.E. MAXI CREW IN NUMBERS...
Trim level tested: Maxi Crew
Range: 106 miles
Top speed: 81mph
Max power: 59bhp
Torque: 226Nm (167ft.lbs.)
Kerb weight: TBA
Type: Lithium ion
Recharge time: 6-8 hours at 13 amps/ 240 volts
Thermal control: Yes - liquid