ROUEN, France – Renault’s purpose-built electric vehicle, the Zoe, that comes to market late this year, recently traveled 1,000 miles (1,610 km) in 24 hours on the auto maker’s test track near here, which the company believes is a record for an EV.
The Zoe recharged 39 times during its journey, using Renault’s own fast-charging system that does not require the heavy cable of most such systems. Instead, the charger, which the auto maker has named Chameleon, uses the power electronics that drive the motor as part of the recharging system.
The Zoe has a top speed of about 87 mph (140 km/h). On the track, it ran about 25 miles (41 km) at top speed between the 39 partial fast recharges. Over 24 hours, it averaged 42 mph (67 km/h), including the time stopped for recharging.
Jacques Prost, Renault senior vice president-powertrain engineering, says the previous distance record for an electric car in 24 hours was 777 miles (1,250 km). But he is not certain whether the Zoe’s record was made under the same conditions.
Renault’s fast-charge system differs from that used by Nissan’s Leaf EV. The alliance partners have gone their separate ways on the technology. Nissan uses a direct-current system that is the standard for Japanese auto makers, while Renault recharges with alternating current.
Direct charge goes directly into the battery but requires an elaborate recharging facility that changes the AC of the electric grid into DC. The Renault system uses the AC from the grid and the onboard electronics change it to DC for the battery.
Some of the same electronics later turn the DC current from the battery into AC current to drive the electric motor.
Fast-charge stations for the Zoe are simpler than those for the Leaf. In Europe, the Zoe will recharge its lithium-ion battery in eight to nine hours on the single-phase 220V regular current. But the 3-phase fast recharge at 440V will refill 80% of the battery in 30 minutes.
Renault and Nissan differ on several other key EV technologies as well, in part because each auto maker’s engineers think they have the best idea, but also because top management wants to see what works best in the marketplace.
Renault’s Zoe, for example, uses a synchronous motor with coils on the rotor, which is less expensive than the permanent-magnet electric motor employed by Nissan. However, it’s also less efficient.
Another difference is that Nissan is selling its EVs with the battery included, while Renault is renting out the batteries separately.
The Zoe is priced at about €20,000 ($25,160) in France, but will cost €15,000 ($18,870) after a government rebate. Batteries will rent for €79 ($99) a month for people driving 7,768 miles (12,500 km) a year.