For Belgium Owner, Electric Kangoo's Brakes Took One Month To Fix
The problem with any emerging technology is that, from time to time, what mostly emerges are hassles and problems. This appears to be the case with EV enthusiast Hubert Savelberg, a native of Belgium who, until recently, was the proud owner of a Renault Kangoo Z.E. electric delivery van. That relationship has since lost its spark, so to speak, after nearly one month’s worth of trouble-shooting and waiting for parts to fix a recurring brake problem.
An Early Adopter
Mr. Savelberg bought his Renault Kangoo Z.E. in June 2012—though he pre-ordered the vehicle years earlier, while it was still making the auto show rounds as a concept car. The Kangoo was to be used in his family business, an Internet hosting company (www.euregio.net), which services local clients and small businesses in the Ardennes region in southeast Belgium.
The Renault’s estimated 110-mile driving range didn’t pose a problem for day-to-day business needs because, according to Savelberg, the average distance from his company to most clients and suppliers is approximately 30 miles. For longer trips, his company could easily rely on another delivery vehicle in the fleet. Other than its obvious eco-credentials, Savelberg said he opted for this zero-emission Kangoo because of its load-lugging capability, along with its large side surface areas—the perfect canvas to promote his business.
The Problem Begins
For the past few weeks, however, the Kangoo has spent all of its time in the garage bays of various Renault dealerships. In an email, Savelberg explained that braking issues began only months after taking delivery of the van. “Our Renault Kangoo Z.E. [electric van] bought in June 2012 several times displayed a dashboard alert in November and December 2012, about brake system failure.” Dashboard warning lights flashed on and braking became progressively more difficult. On occasion, it was necessary to pull the handbrake in order to stop the Kangoo and return safely to company headquarters.
After several “reboots of the electronics at the Renault workshop,” the Kangoo had to be towed to another Renault facility. Though the issue was diagnosed as being brake-related, the wait for spare parts—not to mention a lack of clear answers—was excruciating for Savelberg.
Solution Is Found
A few days ago, Savelberg sent a follow-up note to PluginCars.com, with news that his Kangoo Z.E. was finally fixed after being in a repair shop for exactly 27 days. “Yesterday the piece was finally delivered and replaced. It is a tube with a valve connected to it. It is sitting directly after the vacuum pump for the brake assistance system and takes care that the vacuum remains intact in the tube. The replaced item was not completely tight and lost vacuum.” In his emails, Savelberg compared the problem to one that recently caused Mitsubishi to issue a global recall for the i-MiEV hatchback.
That problem was traced to an electrical pump that supplies air to the Mitsubishi EV’s brake booster. While the end results are similar—longer braking distances, and more pedal force needed to stop the vehicle—the root cause affecting the Kangoo Z.E. seems more of a mechanical flaw, and nothing directly related to the EV powertrain.
That likely provides little comfort to anyone who’s had his or her vehicle in the shop for almost one month. Despite earlier assurances from Renault that “there were no structural problems with the Kangoo,” Savelberg says he’s been told the French automaker will “start a recall to replace all the vacuum pumps of the Kangoo.” At this time, and without any official notification from Renault, it’s impossible to know if this (potentially) affects only the Kangoo Z.E., or the entire range of diesel and gasoline-powered models.
For now, the good news is that this particular EV delivery van is out of the garage and back on the roads of Belgium. Yet as Mr. Savelberg aptly concluded his latest email, the story of his Kangoo Z.E. electric van is “to be continued.”
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