How Renault is betting on its new Zoé to preserve its leading position
A new Zoe? Almost... Certainly, the "third generation" of Renault's electric city car keeps what in a thermal version would be qualified as essential: the chassis, the bodywork. Yes, but now, Zoé has changed everything in what, in an electric car, is the real essential: the electronic architecture and the electric motor.
Inside, everything has been reviewed
Of course, to look good, several body elements have been modified. “We reinvented the Zoé,” insists Gilles Normand, director of electric vehicles at Renault. According to him, there was no reason to change his look. "His style is always his first reason for buying," he explained to an audience of journalists who came for the launch of the model. For Agneta Dahlgren, director of electric vehicle design, however, there have been some marginal changes to "further affirm the profile that has become iconic" of the Zoe. From the dashboard, to the body colors (3 additional shades), through the perceived quality of the materials, new textiles (recycled), but also the comfort of the seats and the light signature, everything has been reviewed.
The new Zoé wants to be "more dynamic and more chic to confirm on the design, the increased performance and the extended autonomy", confirms Agneta Dahlgren. Thus the new version of one of the best-selling electric cars in Europe sees its autonomy increased by 25% to reach 390 km (WLTP standard). It is also equipped with a new 135 horsepower engine which sees its torque increase to 245 Nm. For Elizabeth Delval, director of the Zoé program, engine responsiveness and therefore driving comfort is significantly improved since the driver gains 2 seconds to switch from 80 to 120 km/h.
A competitive Zoe
For Gilles Normand, you have to realize that all the innovations brought to the new Zoé such as these new engines, but also the Adass (driver assistance systems) involved a complete overhaul of the car's electronic infrastructure. Not to mention the new connectivity system and the new screens. Another example, "the new batteries made the car take 45 kilograms, it was necessary to modify the entire braking balance and all that this implies in the analysis of side impacts, etc...", explains Gilles Normand. "We have added added value to the Zoé and in a competitive context, we have equipped ourselves with the right weapons to defend ourselves and be offensive," he asserts.
The electromobility market is indeed growing strongly in Europe. Since the beginning of the year, sales have increased by 41% in France according to figures from Avere. Zoé, again number one in Europe in April and May with 18% market share, must take into account the arrival on the market of a swarm of competitors like the 208, but also a whole offensive on the Volkswagen side. Gilles Normand believes that the evolution of the market will allow the Zoé to enter another dimension: "we are reaching production levels which are starting to become reasonable in terms of the performance standards of the automotive industry", said - he rejoiced. Another competitiveness factor: the decision to retain most of the chassis and bodywork allows Renault to make significant savings in terms of development but also on industrial processes. The Zoe should therefore keep a real competitive advantage thanks to this largely cushioned silhouette.
A major strategic focus for Renault
Electromobility remains a key strategic focus for Renault, which rightly claims to be a pioneer, in cooperation with its ally Nissan. The French group has announced an investment of one billion euros to confirm France as a center of excellence for electromobility within the Alliance. Thus, the Cléon site will triple the production of electric motors, the Douai site will be equipped with the CMF-EV platform which will enable it to produce 100% electric cars, the Flins plant will see its production of the Zoé doubled and while Maubeuge will be assigned the Kangoo ZE (zero emissions).
Renault is planning a range of eight 100% electric cars by 2022 and is targeting 10% of the brand's total sales through this range. By adding the entire range of electrified cars (like the new Clio which will be available in a hybrid version), Renault wants to equip half of its catalog with an electrified version. With this in mind, there is no doubt that Zoé will remain Renault's standard-bearer when it comes to electromobility. Renault hopes to replicate this image success (reference, iconic car) in China with the K-ZE, a 100% electric small car. But on the world's leading market for electric cars, the war is already much more important, and Renault cannot enjoy the image of a precursor.Nabil Bourassi