The What Van? Road Test: Renault Kangoo Z.E. 33

Date: Monday, May 14, 2018   |   Author: Steve Banner

 

Detail Engine c

Engine and gearbox

Power comes courtesy of a 60hp synchronous electric motor producing 225Nm of torque. It draws power from a lithium nickel manganese cobalt battery.

Electric vans do not have conventional gearboxes so there is no gear-changing. Instead, a shift lever sits between the seats, which you can deploy to go forwards or backwards.

Driving

Turn the key once, and turn it again so the green ‘Go’ signal lights up on the instrument panel, and you’re ready to roll. Then push the shift lever to ‘D’ for drive and press the accelerator, but make sure to release the odd-looking L-shaped handbrake lever first.

With plenty of performance instantly available the Kangoo Z.E. 33 doesn’t disgrace itself on the road. The lack of noise from a conventional engine means, however, that all the other sources of noise on the vehicle are immediately noticeable, from the slap of the tyres to the occasional creak from the suspension.

Pedestrians and cyclists appear to use their ears as much as their eyes and are often oblivious to the presence of quiet-running electric vans until they are practically on top of them.  Happily, though, the Kangoo Z.E. 33 features something called Z.E. Voice. It broadcasts a rather odd noise, which alerts vulnerable road users to the vehicle’s presence at speeds of up to 20mph – assuming, of course, they aren’t wearing headphones. It can be deactivated.

Like its conventionally powered stablemates, the battery Kangoo offers a surprisingly comfortable ride and sharp, responsive handling.

Low-speed manoeuvring – reversing in particular – can be a little nerve-wracking, however, because it always feels as though the van will suddenly shoot forwards or backwards. As a consequence you end up tickling the accelerator pedal rather than pressing it.

A dial to the left of the speedometer displays how much charge is left in the battery, one to the right shows how much energy you are using, and a central digital display tells you how many miles you have left before the battery is flat. An audible warning sounds when the charge falls to one-eighth of the maximum, and sounds again at one-sixteenth. When it gets to 5% the motor de-rates to 15kW or limp-home mode.

Accelerate hard and the predicted range will soon start to drop, so it pays to be light-footed. Pressing the Eco Mode button helps extend the range while making little difference to the vehicle’s performance, unless you’re climbing a steep incline with some weight in the back. Regenerative braking contributes to providing a little bit more range and is far less aggressive than the system fitted to the Kangoo Z.E. when it first appeared.

Although Renault is understandably happy to cite the official range figures, it clearly views them as optimistic. As a consequence it also quotes an estimated range of 124 miles in warm summer weather (at more than 20°C) falling to 75 miles in the bitter chill of winter (at -5°C), roughly what we experienced in what were, at times, challenging driving conditions. Put the air-conditioning on at the same time as the heater, however, and the heat pump will begin operating, boosting your projected range to 84 miles as it shoulders some of the burden. You can always opt for a diesel-fired heater, but that would seem to defeat the object of going electric in the first place.

It is not just using the heater that shortens an electric van’s winter range as all traction batteries operate less efficiently in cold weather.



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