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Sportier Renault Zoe on slow charge

RS kick: Hot hatch specialists Renault Sport Technologies had heavy input to the electric Twizy quadricycle and donated steering components to the new Zoe hatch (pictured).

Battery limits mean ‘hot hatch’ EVs would prioritise responses over power-ups

Renault logo12 Mar 2013

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

UPDATED: 26/03/2013SPORTIER versions of mainstream electric cars like Renault’s new Zoe hatchback are likely to be limited to tweaked responses and handling due to the limitations of battery technology.

Speaking at the international Zoe launch in Portugal last week, Renault deputy product manager Aurelien Subsol said a desire to maintain the Zoe’s segment-leading battery range would preclude any increase in power or torque over the standard 65kW and 220Nm.

Instead, software tweaks could create a more responsive feel and GoAuto’s drive of the Zoe revealed it lends itself well to handling upgrades from beefed-up suspension, larger wheels and performance-oriented aerodynamics.

Mr Subsol agreed that a lot can be achieved purely through software upgrades on electric vehicles – including increased motor output – before resorting to physical modifications.

He said a sports variant of the Zoe would be more in the spirit of the Clio GT ‘warm hatch’ unveiled at the Geneva motor show last week than the flagship RS – a nameplate reserved for Renault’s hottest hatches.

“Anyway, this version is not today in our plan,” he added.

The Clio GT receives RS-style chassis upgrades, body kit and dual-clutch automatic transmission with paddle-shifters but engine output is limited to 89kW, compared with 147kW on the RS.

Mr Subsol agreed the creation of a sportier Zoe could serve to boost the image of electric vehicles.

Renault Sport Technologies was heavily involved in the creation of the Twizy quadricycle, with the brief of making it fun to drive despite its limited power output.

Similar to the Twizy, the Zoe’s underfloor battery pack gives it a low centre of gravity conducive to strong road-holding, fun handling and limited body-roll in corners. It has also inherited steering components from the third-generation Clio RS 200.

Mr Subsol agreed that an aftermarket EV tuning industry is likely to emerge, providing software and hardware upgrades – even including motor modifications – to improve performance.

However almost all such upgrades would be at the expense of battery range, due to the complexity of battery technology and the management of battery chemistry and temperature.

US electric car specialist Tesla founded its business on sporty EVs, exploding the myth that electric cars were boring.

The cost of having enough batteries to deliver both acceptable range and thrilling performance means Tesla cars are expensive compared with cars like the Zoe, which in Europe is similarly priced to a Volkswagen Golf and subject to government incentives that make it even more affordable.

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