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Renault wants to deliver Kangoo ZE

Category confusion: The vehicle classification of the Renault Twizy would have to change before it is introduced to Australia.

Twizy off the cards for now, but Renault hoping for successful trial of Kangoo ZE

Renault logo23 Oct 2014

By TIM NICHOLSON

RENAULT Australia is gauging interest from fleets in its fully electric Kangoo ZE delivery van, with the hope of adding it to its burgeoning light-commercial line-up.

Australian journalists this week had their first taste of the electrified Kangoo, as well as the quirky Twizy two-seat electric ‘quadricycle’, but both vehicles are far from locked in for sale Down Under.

The Twizy faces the biggest uphill battle as it is categorised as a passenger motor vehicle under the federal government’s vehicle classification laws.

Without safety equipment such as side-impact protection bars and stability control, it does not satisfy Australian Design Rule requirements.

Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar has previously told GoAuto that the company does not think it should be classed as a motor vehicle simply because it has a steering wheel and would be keen for the Australian government to follow Europe’s lead where it falls under the classification of quadricycle.

While acknowledging the country’s growing number of “Twizy fans”, Renault Australia corporate communications and sponsorship manager Emily Fadeyev told GoAuto a local berth for the four-wheeler is unlikely anytime soon, if at all.

“We need to be conscious that this is a long journey,” she said. “We have commenced the conversation with Twizy.

“It is not something that will happen overnight by any stretch and we are very aware of that. It is something that will take years, if at all, if we are able to get Twizy into a category that would allow it to come to Australia.”

While the Twizy is a long way off, the Kangoo ZE has more of a chance of becoming a permanent fixture in the Renault line-up, although Ms Fadeyev pointed out that it has not been confirmed for Australia and is only here on trial.

As previously reported, the trial is with Renault fleet partner Australia Post and includes four Kangoo ZEs – two in Melbourne and two in Sydney – for a 12-month evaluation.

While the Melbourne trial has only just commenced, Ms Fadeyev said the early feedback from drivers was that they are “enjoying the vehicle” and that there is “excitement” around the van.

Ms Fadeyev said the trial had created some awareness of the Kangoo ZE, piquing the interest of other fleet buyers, but Renault would wait until the end of the trial in 12 months time to determine its viability in the local market.

“We have had some discussions with other fleet partners as well.

“I can’t name them yet of course. Certainly we have seen some very strong interest in the market to start conversations to learn more.

“We are very conscious that we need to get that data, which is what the trial was for, before we say yes or no that there is a business case for Kangoo ZE in Australia.

“It is certainly something we are looking at, the commercialisation of it (Kangoo ZE), we wouldn’t be doing this trial if we weren’t, but its something we don’t want to rush into.

“We want to take our time and understand what opportunities exist and decide if it is a yay or nay. We would be looking at a year away before we make that decision.”

In Europe, 14,000 Kangoo ZEs are already in service, and Renault EV specialist Elena Woods told GoAuto that driver satisfaction is 95 per cent, with anecdotal feedback highlighting the benefits of an electric van.

“Fleet managers have come back to us and said – anecdotally so we don’t have numbers – but they have less injuries, less sick days from their drivers, the drivers are generally happier,” she said.

“It’s because of the driving style you adopt in an electric vehicle. There are no vibrations, it’s a quieter environment.

“It has this reaction on drivers that you don’t think what you are (driving) in is bad until you change your environment, so it’s been very positive.”

If the Kangoo ZE gets the green light for wider sale in Australia, it would likely carry a premium over the regular diesel-powered Kangoo Maxi that retails for $24,990 plus on-road costs.

Renault pointed out that this is the cost of the technology and that operating costs are “significantly less” than a regular combustion engine model as there are fewer parts to maintain and recharging the battery costs no more than $5 on the residential power rate, and about half that on a commercial rate.

The 1500kg Kangoo ZE uses a 44kW/226Nm electric motor matched with a lithium-ion battery, and has an NEDC (New European Driving Cycle) range of 170km and a real-world range of 80-125km.

The electrified Kangoo offers a payload of 650kg, while the regular Diesel Maxi’s is 800kg.

In terms of Renault Australia’s EV strategy, Ms Fadeyev said it would eventually follow the global strategy, which was detailed by Renault Nissan Alliance CEO Carlos Ghosn at the Paris motor show earlier this month.

Mr Ghosn said the two brands would offer a range of powertrain options, depending on the market, including EVs, plug-in hybrids, mild hybrids and fuel efficient petrol and diesel engines.

Ms Fadeyev said Renault Australia would look at all options available and determine the best fit for the local market.

“Our strategy towards different powertrains is pretty much the same as our product strategy which is we will look at everything,” she said. “We will look at what is suitable and viable for Australia.

“Yes, we could see an integrated strategy working across all different options, but we are talking a bit longer term and it would have to fill those criteria we put on any product.”

Ms Fadeyev also said lack of government incentives or appropriate infrastructure made it more difficult for an EV business case to stack up in Australia, but she highlighted countries such as Germany that do not have strong incentive programs but have high take-up of eco-friendly cars.

“From our side it is a bit disappointing and frustrating that we don’t currently have an incentive program in place,” she said.

“Having said that, incentives are not the be all and end all for EVs and there are examples where other countries have worked.

“Germany doesn’t have a strong incentive program but they have other things in place to support EVs. They have a strong awareness of emissions, they have very good renewable energy.”

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