The electric city car in 12 big dates

A true phenomenon on the market for electric passenger cars, the Renault Zoé continues to chart its course after fifteen years marked by various and / or major advances.

2005: Zoe City Car

First car imagined with the name ” Zoe “Filed by Renault in 1991, the City Car, unveiled in 2005 at the Geneva Motor Show (Switzerland), is however not an electric model.

This 3-seater, whose rear seat accommodates a relatively large trunk installed next to it, is equipped with a 1.2-liter 4-cylinder turbo petrol unit which develops a maximum torque of 145 Nm. A treated interior luxuriously earned him to be presented as a ” small high-end urban vehicle “.

That year, the Losange ended production of its only electric model in the catalog, the Kangoo, available in Electri’Cité and Elect’Road versions, the latter receiving a gasoline range extender.

2009: Presentation of the Zoé Concept in Frankfurt

Renault’s first electric concept using the name Zoé was revealed in Frankfurt (Germany) in 2009, along with the other models of the Z.E. (Fluence, Twizy and Kangoo). Access to the 4-seater of the Zoé Concept is made by opening a scissor door at the front, and a butterfly door at the rear.

The manufacturer then designates the machine as a ” Compact supermini »Designed for short daily journeys in urban areas. Its footprint, however, is very close to the current trendy bestseller, especially in terms of length: 4.10 x 1.84 m (compared to 4.08 x 1.94 m).

Its range of 160 km appears generous compared to the 80 km of Renault EVs with nickel and cadmium pack released between 1996 and 2005. The Zoé Concept has an engine with a power of 70 kW and a maximum torque of 225 Nm.

2010: Zoe Preview unveiled in Paris

It is in Paris, at the Mondial de l’Automobile, that the Zoé Preview is unveiled, 90% close to the production model. The final lines are already there. Renault then cites a few main differences with the Zoe which will go into production 2 years later: a slightly more compact body and less expensive materials on board.

The front end is ultimately inspired more by the concept of the DeZir electric sports car than by the Zoé Concept. While the energy capacity of the lithium-ion pack has not yet been announced, the range retains its 160 km.

Curiously, the Losange then envisages for the Zoe the Quick Drop battery exchange system, which will ultimately only be integrated on the Fluence. Fast charging to regain 80% capacity in 30 minutes is highlighted. The engine power rises to 80 kW compared to the 2009 prototype.

2012: Production of the series Zoé

Appointments accelerated for the Renault Zoé from 2012. That year, the production model was presented for the first time at the Geneva Motor Show in March, while the first pre-production units had already been produced at the Flins-sur-Seine factory. It is in this same Ile-de-France unit that the models intended for customers will be assembled, sharing the same lines as the Clio.

We now know the technical characteristics of that which is then assimilated to an electric city car. A 22 kWh lithium-ion pack of useful energy capacity gives it a real range of 150-175 km. It powers a 65kW wound rotor synchronous Continental motor that develops a maximum torque of 220Nm.

Then Minister of Productive Recovery, Arnaud Montebourg received the keys to his Zoe in mid-December 2012, from Carlos Tavares, CEO of Renault.

March 2013: Launch of marketing in France

The Renault Zoé was officially launched in France in March 2013 with the first deliveries made immediately afterwards, one month in advance. This is to satisfy a clientele of 400 Alsatians for whom the purchase of an electric car was eligible for a regional bonus. For a maximum amount of 5,000 euros, the operation of the community ended at the end of the same month. A challenge taken up by the manufacturer and its sales network.

In 2013, however, 2 points may dissuade motorists from buying a Renault Zoe: the compulsory use of the lithium pack rental, and the absence of this occasional charging cable (CRO, or grandmother’s cable, or even Flexicharharger) . The diamond justifies the first by an economic model favorable to consumers who do not have to worry about the condition of the battery, which will be exchanged for free below a threshold of around 72% of its capacity. origin.

For the 2nd, a certain weakness of the on-board chameleon charger is masked by the obligation to have a wallbox installed at home, failing to be able to take advantage of the 22 kW AC terminals which began to flourish in that year in France.

March 2014: availability of the CRO

After a year of pressure from the first buyers of the Zoé, Renault is adding the famous CRO in the units delivered from March 2014 with a reinforced domestic plug Green’Up from Legrand. Far from being anecdotal, this episode finally allows the pack to be supplied with energy from a household outlet, especially when traveling with the family (hence the name Grandma’s cable).

Without this accessory, participants in the first rallies in electric vehicles could find themselves at a disadvantage compared to competitors entered with other models. The lack of CRO was a hallmark of the Losange.


However, the distribution of the cable did not then make it possible to erase all the blockages. These most often resulted from a strict control carried out by the Zoe software when connecting to a household outlet. In the event of a more or less defective earthing, recharging could not start. A later soft setting will fix most of these problems.

2015: Introduction of the new R240 engine

Now referenced as R90, the R240 engine, produced at the Renault plant in Cléon (76) since 2015, retains almost the performance of that supplied by Continental.

It is however more sober and efficient in reduced dimensions, but incompatible with the AC 43 kW fast charging.

Hence the decision taken by the Losange to offer the Zoé until 2016 with one or the other of these 2 engines, depending on whether the customer favors fast charging or a range of a few kilometers longer.

2017: Appearance of the 41 kWh battery

After a presentation at the Paris Motor Show in October 2016, Renault launched in January 2017 a Zoé equipped with a battery with a useful energy capacity of 41 kWh.

Enough to display a range of 400 km (Cléon R90 engine) or 370 km (Continental Q90 engine with 43 kW AC fast charging) according to the NEDC standard then in force, against 240 for the Zoe 22 kWh which will have to coexist for some time with the newcomer.

More alluring metallic hues are added to the color chart, making the electric all-rounder even more attractive.

2018: End of the battery rental obligation

Since April 2018, it has finally been possible to buy a Renault Zoé in full in France, that is to say with the battery. Rental for the latter remains however possible. This is a great victory for those who felt trapped in not being able to own the pack.

The Losange has revised its stance thanks to the perspective it deemed necessary on the durability and performance of the LG lithium-ion cells it has been using since 2012.

A month earlier, the 100,000th copy of the versatile electric rolled off the Flins lines. March 15, 2018 to be precise, after 5 years of marketing. However, it only took 18 months to double the numbers, as the 200,000th Zoé was assembled at the same site on November 25, 2019.

2019: Launch of the Zoé phase II with 52 kWh battery

Big news for 2019 is the launch in September of the new Zoé, with a bodywork this time retouched while maintaining the same dimensions and trunk volume.

While the previous generation relied on 4 different engines, the newcomer can be ordered with 2 engines manufactured in Cléon: the R110 (maximum power of 80 kW for a torque of 225 Nm) and the R135 (100 kW / 245 Nm).

The range increases again, so that the change of standard to calculate the official figures seems erased: 395 km WLTP. On the ground, the new Zoe has gained around 100 km of radius.

The much better presented interior loses its somewhat cheap appearance. In addition, the Zoe phase II opens up to fast DC recharging via a Combo CCS connector (option invoiced around 1,000 euros including tax), while retaining its 22 kW AC on-board charger allowing the best possible use of the national grid terminals.

2022: A Zoe RS?

Resulting from the e-Sport concept presented in Geneva in 2014, the Zoé RS is regularly mentioned by some Renault executives. They hope to see this project materialize in 2022 at the earliest. By this time, other electric car manufacturers are also considering marketing sports models.

Developed with Renault Sport, the prototype unveiled in 2017 displays incredible performance for a machine ranging in size from a city car to a compact hatchback: 345 kW of power and 640 Nm of torque distributed over the 2 engines. What to hold the 0-100 km / h in 3.2 seconds, and hang the top speed of 210 km / h in 10 s.

2024: Zoé phase III produced in Douai?

New CEO of Renault, Luca de Meo has announced the conversion into Re-Factory of the legendary Flins-sur-Seine factory.

As a reminder, the latter started its activity in 1952 by producing Juva 4, before welcoming the Dauphine. The site will adopt a new orientation focused on the circular economy.

Concretely, the activity will be supported by 4 pillars: conversion of thermal cars into electric (retrofitting), repair and second life of batteries, recycling, R&D.

The future Zoé, expected in 2024, would therefore not be produced in this unit, but rather in that of Douai, from which the new Kangoo Z.E.


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