Renault Kangoo Zero Emission: Europe's Most Promising Electric Vehicle?
There is something that amazes Europeans when they visit the U.S. It's the sheer number of pick-up trucks everywhere.
They are rare on this side of the Atlantic. I don't see one everyday. What we have instead are compact utility wagons (CUW). To my knowledge, the only CUW available in the U.S. is the Ford Transit Connect. It has the same underpinnings as a Focus; it's just a bit wider, and a bit taller with a boxy back. Ford advertises it as a van in America, which it is not. On the contrary, it's precisely because CUWs are not vans that they are so successful in Europe. CUWs are built on a car platform, and so they have a car-like driving position, handling characteristics, and most important fuel economy.
We have many models to choose from, with the Renault Kangoo being the most successful. There are many versions available, from a well-equipped family model, to the plain vanilla paneled one, in white non-metallic paint. But what matters to us is that there will be an electric version available later this year.
We've been waiting for it for about 10 years. Really, I think I first saw an electric Kangoo in 2002! It was not in production the first time I saw it, then it was, but you couldn't buy one. A bit later, production was stopped, with no clear explanation given. That was around 2004 or 2005. Happily, things have changed, and Renault (with its partner Nissan) now wants to be the world's leader in electric cars. The Kangoo will be a major step in achieving that goal, because to the eyes of many (including mine), it's the model that has the sales potential which is the easiest to forecast.
I mean, how many individuals are willing to buy an electric car? Nobody knows for sure. I know there are thousands of people waiting for a Nissan LEAF, but there is some kind of a novelty effect. It's incredibly difficult to forecast how many electric cars will sell two years from now. Of course, I believe in electric cars. I believe they will be successful, but if you ask me the source of my beliefs, I don't have any hard data to give you.
So let's look at a different question. How many business users have commercial fleets with a fixed daily driving-distance that's less than 80-miles, fixed driving hours and where vehicles are parked always at the same place? They would be prime customers for electric vehicles. There are thousands of them in every country. I can count them, and I can prove it—as can any car manufacturer, and I guess Ford did. An electric version of the Transit Connect will be available soon.
The electric Kangoo is available to order right now in France, with deliveries expecting to start this July. The motor makes 44 kW with 167-lbs/ft of torque and the battery is a 22 kWh pack. That is the weak point in my opinion, and I talked to a Renault press officer about it. He said that they've done some marketing research and that it will be enough to fulfill customers' expectations. (They didn't ask me.)
The official range is 160 km (100 miles). Payload is 1,430 pounds, and we shall note that the cargo area is identical to the diesel version, with all batteries under the floor. They are the same cells used by the Nissan LEAF.
You Can't Buy the Battery
The electric Kangoo starts at 22,940 euros ($31,676). A 5,000-euro French state incentive for electrics ($6,904) will make it more affordable, but this price doesn't buy you a carpet. It's a rubber mat on the floor. Pricing for the fancy family version hasn't been announced yet. There isn't a radio either so you won't waste energy listening to music.
More worrying, the price above does not include the battery. And you can't buy it; it's only available as a rent that will cost you 86.11 euros monthly ($1,427 per year). I'll say it clearly: I don't like this formula of selling incomplete cars, that you will have to pay for forever—after you've already bought them. Renault will be the only car manufacturer selling its electrics without their batteries. But I suppose it won't matter much to business owners, who lease all their vehicles, and I'm sure the electric Kangoo will be hugely popular among fleets. Maybe more popular than the LEAF among private customers.
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