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September 17, 2014

On sale by the end of the year

Monday, July 7, 2014

Renault tests 100% electric cars in country

By Carlos A. Pefaur
Herald Staff
Renault Argentina has brought two Twizys and two Kangoo ZEs to carry out tests with electronic cars on Argentine streets for the first time. The French carmaker has a very specific objective: “We hope to sell the first units of the Kangoo ZE to companies with fleets before the end of the year,” said Thierry Koskas, Renaul Argentina president.

The passenger and utilitarian versions of the Kangoo, the Maxi and the Furgon, correspond to the company’s new modern generation.

The Twixy cannot yet be sold in the country because it still hasn’t been categorized, so it wouldn’t be authorized to circulate on the streets.

Renault announced a deal with electricity company Edesur to set up the first charging locations for electric vehicles in the country. Such facilities can be set up at industrial parks or homes. The chargers are priced at US$1,200.

Although there are no official prices for the actual cars yet, rumours suggest prices would range from between 350,000 and 450,000 pesos for the Kangoo.

The Kangoo’s passenger version, the Maxi ZE, is 4.66 metres long, and has an enormous interior that seats five people, as well as a 750-litre boot.

The freight version has a loading capacity of 650 kilograms or 3,400 litres. It can carry objects as long as 4.21 metres and includes a detachable rear roof, to transport taller equipment.

These vehicles feature almost no movable mechanical parts, except for the chassis. It’s worth recalling that these are 100 percent electronic products, hybrids that combine electric power with a mechanical internal combustion.

This Kangoo features an electric engine that delivers 60 horsepower and 226 Nm of torque. It is capable of a maximum speed of 130 kmph and accelerates from zero to 100 kmph in 20.3 seconds.

The fuel tank’s autonomy reaches 170 kilometres in an ideal scenario.

But Renault Argentina considers that driving in the traffic of a city like Buenos Aires the tank will last between 120 and 130 kilometres. The batteries are lithium ion and have three charging modes: a household outlet, which takes 10 hours, Edesur’s “Wall Box,” which takes between four and eight hours, but also fast charge mode, which carries the battery to 80 percent in just 30 minutes.

The cars’ batteries have a lifespan of 15 years. But Thierry Koskas assured Argentine buyers should forget about the issue altogether: “Battery warranty is unlimited in Argentina. After more than 10 years of trials around the world, so far there has not been a single problem with customers. So, should the lifespan of a battery be exhausted, the replacement will be provided by Renault Argentina, at no cost.”

It should be noted that Koskas was responsible for the development of the current range of electric vehicles by Renault. Before coming to Argentina, he was in charge of the project.

The estimated operating cost by Renault for petrol vehicles is 1,150 pesos for every 1,000 kilometres travelled, compared to the 76 pesos required by the Kangoo ZE. The difference at 20,000 kilometres is 23,000 pesos for petrol cars compared to 1,520 pesos for electric engines.

The Kangoo ZEs I was able to test drive at the KDT Circuit is definitely not a car for fast driving, but instead one for freight work and passenger transport in the city.

For starters, the silence is absolute. The vibrations typical of a commercial vehicle do not exist here.

Secondly, the gearbox allows the driver to forget about the lever entirely. The vehicle moves when the throttle is pressed down. If not, the car slows down to a stop. The only thing you have to get used to is the feel of the electric motor. When the accelerator is released, the vehicle tends to slow down faster than a petrol engine or diesel engine. This is due to kinetic energy, which is constantly recycled to recharge the batteries.

Another distinct advantage is the car’s low maintenance requirements. The fewer moving parts, the lesser the chances of wear and tear.

Another is the recharging system, which can be done at night when electricity is cheaper.

The only missing factor is a political incentive from the government to promote the purchase of these vehicles, whether municipal, provincial or federal.

The Kangoo ZE looks tempting. It is a modern and practical vehicle. We just need to know how much they will cost when they go on sale in a few months.

Thierry Koskas highlighted that the aim of the company is to market the first units of the Kangoo ZE before the end of 2014. Postal, logistics or distribution companies could be “ideal clients,” for this type of vehicle he added.

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