In the last few years the sale of electric cars has been on the increase and as you will no doubt be aware, the subject of pollution, especially in city centres is ever-present in the tabloid and TV news.
However, it is not just cars that are part of the problem; light and heavy goods vehicles make up an ever-increasing percentage of vehicles in those areas, delivering and collecting goods, parcels and providing utility services. Luckily, a number of manufacturers produce electric versions of their commercial vehicles and gradually companies large and small are getting the message and making the switch, examples being UPS and Milk & More.
The Renault Kangoo has been a popular small vehicle for many years in the commercial and private sectors and now there is an electric version, known as the Kangoo Z.E. 33. It is available as an LCV only and in Van, Maxi Van and Crew Van configurations. Externally, the Z.E. version is almost identical to the diesel version, just having a slightly different design of front grille and Z.E. badging on the front wings and offside rear door; oh and of course there’s no tailpipe. There is a good range of colours available, with this basic Business example in a really nice shade of blue called Nightwatch, a nod to another industry that could easily switch to electric. Usefully, this stylish little load carrier came ply-lined and access to the payload area, 640KG just ten kilos shy of the diesel variant, was through either a sliding side door or two rear doors, the latter opening wide for easy entry and loading. The near side ‘fuel flap’ is just a dummy by the way; when you want to top up the battery, the charge port is beneath the diamond in the front grille, just like the Zoe car. Thankfully, you get good large door mirrors to help you out in those situations when rear side panels cause blind spots and when parking, rear sensors helped hugely, although an option here.
Inside, the Kangoo is utilitarian as you would expect with expanses of plastic and rubber to facilitate easy cleaning and the controls have a suitably chunky feel to them. Standard kit includes power windows and mirrors. I found the seats to be very comfy although a little narrow; perhaps I just need to cut back on the bacon butties! The driving position is generally very good but in this day and age, a steering wheel that adjusted in and out as well as up and down would be great. A couple of other niggles, applicable only to this electric version, were that the ECO button is tricky to get at down by the gear selector – on the steering wheel or upper dash area somewhere would make life on the move easier. On a similar subject, the gear selector graph on the dash could be a bit larger and easier to read. Storage space was excellent with a good size glovebox, door bins and the optional centre console that provides a very deep cubby area and also a well-placed armrest; at only £50 extra, a really useful addition. Other options fitted to my loan van were an R-link multimedia system with seven-inch screen, TomTom Live navigation, Bluetooth, voice control and a CD player – the sound quality was actually very good. The ‘Tech Pack’ brought such luxuries as cruise control, those rear parking sensors and front fog lights. For a bit more comfort, I had manual air conditioning with a pollen filter and a heat pump for those chilly early starts.
One thing I remember from driving vans, such as the Escort, years ago was the low slung driving position; getting in and out was a bit of a pain for sure, especially with a bad back. Nowadays with vans like the Kangoo, you open the tall door and just slide into the perfectly placed height adjustable seat and look out through a lovely panoramic windscreen. Twist the key in the steering column and the dials and lights come on; put your right foot on the brake and slide the automatic transmission’s lever to D and you’re ready to go; being all electric, there is only one speed. A great feature of all pure electric vehicles is the amount of torque available right from the word go. The Kangoo Z.E. comes with a 225 Nm motor, so the modest 60 BHP doesn’t matter too much and although the 0-60 time is quoted as 20.6 seconds, it feels a lot quicker.
Don’t forget, the harder you drive, the quicker the battery will dissipate. Top speed is 81 MPH and again, the closer you get to that maximum, the quicker you lose charge and lots of other conditions and temperatures will affect range too. Generally, you should be able to average about 100 miles on a full charge and if you use a 22Kw charger when nearly empty, you can be at least back to 80% in just over an hour. Out on the open road, the experience is generally one of quietness and you can hold a conversation without raising your voice. For a van, it handled corners well and the ride, especially on meaty 195/65 R15 tyres, was one of comfort with the steering being quite well weighted at all times.
To sum up the happy-faced Kangoo Z.E, it’s capable, quiet and comfy and with a decent size payload for its size, is also very practical. If you run a local floristry business for example or read meters, have a small catering business or perhaps deliver automotive parts to nearby garages then the Z.E. version of Renault’s evergreen Kangoo is ideal. However, if you need to travel further afield and carry heavier loads, you will be limited, and frustrated at the limited performance.
Hopefully, as time goes by, we’ll see stronger drivetrains from the Zoe range implemented in LCVs and then the customer appeal will be broader.
Van Reviewed 2018 Renault Kangoo Z.E. 33 price from £24,200 (after PICG) Maximum Speed 81mph 0-62mph 20.6 secs EV Range 170 miles (NEDC) Battery kWh Charging 2 hours 15 mins Power 60bhp Torque 225Nm Payload 640KG BIK 9%
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Paul Beard’s interest in cars started about 36 years ago when he bought his first motoring magazine. He has always been passionate about cars and motorsport ever since. Paul has been fortunate to own and drive a wide variety of cars. Ultimately he enjoys writing about them too.
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