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Renault Zoe leads EV charge

Interest generator: Renault’s Zoe (left) is the cheapest emissions-free model currently available in Australia, but it is unlikely to be joined by the recently-revealed K-ZE (below) in local showrooms.

Electric Zoe is only the start as Renault Australia anticipates demand surge

19 Sep 2018

RENAULT is expecting the demand for electric vehicles (EVs) in Australia to steadily grow over the next seven years on the back of innovations in battery range, vehicle design and affordability, against a backdrop of sky-rocketing fuel prices and rising environmental concerns.
While the Zoe EV hatch has only recently been offered for retail sale, Renault Australia managing director Andrew Moore said he was confident the company would be in a favourable position to capitalise on the EV upswing.
“We’ve just implemented an EV retail strategy,” he told GoAuto at the launch of the Megane RS in Queensland last week. “We launched last year with fleet only with Zoe with just two dealers. I’ve since put on a dealer in every state, and in the last couple of months we’ve seen volume double.
“We’re still talking small numbers, and I’m under no illusion that it’s going to be huge numbers in the next couple of years, but the product is improving, and once the product improves the price drops. So, I think there can be a big shift towards EVs and I want Renault at the forefront of this technology.”
Left: Renault Australia managing director Andrew Moore
Mr Moore said the scope for EV growth in Australia was akin to a revolution, as consumers realise the benefits as well as the ease of switching away from internal combustion engine vehicles.
“I’m a huge advocate for EVs,” he explained. “I’ve just gone on the board of the Electric Vehicle Council of Australia, and I think that EVs will be the biggest tech innovation since the smartphone.
“The potential is huge, and what I find frustrating is that we tend to focus on the issues around EV looking at the old technology and not where the technology is going. So, previously the cars had a range of 200km so you’re getting range anxiety; in the future most EVs by 2025 will have a range of 700km – and not many people drive over 700km in a week, so you do one charge overnight and you drive for the rest of the week.
“Now, the battery tech to get that range is moving forward enormously, which means that charging will be quicker, but also with two-way battery charging, you can go to work, charge your cars off solar panels, drive home at night and plug it in and power your house. It’s this sort of opportunity.”
While Mr Moore would not divulge which future Renault EVs were next in line for Australia, he said categorically that nothing was off the table and that every model moving forward would be studied for this market. 
“That’s what I’m pushing,” he revealed. “We’re telling (Renault HQ in France) that we’re very interested in EV, and that we want to be considered for every product. We’re seeing a lot happening in the luxury space, but the prices are all over $100,000 so it’s not accessible for most people, but I think in the mainstream space Renault will be at the forefront and I want to be one of the early brands with that.”
Mr Moore added that he was ensuring viability as well as customer support from a dealer point of view in order to help drive ongoing growth.
“One of the things we’re doing with the dealer network is that we’re keeping it to specialist dealers in each state so that there is good volume through those dealers, and that the sales people have the technical expertise to support the customer, and in servicing they’re doing regular servicing. 
“What we’ve seen with other brands in the past where they’ve made their whole dealer network become EV, charging stations have sat idle and they lose their skill sets. So I’m keeping it to one or two dealers in each state so there’s a constant throughput. It’s all about doing things in a sustainable fashion rather than trying go too hard and it all falls apart.”
Mr Moore said that commercial vehicles would also be considered for an Australian launch, with Renault forecasting growing demand for electrified models such as delivery vans of all sizes.
“Groupe Renault globally has announced in its Drive the Future mid-term plan that the expanding models will include commercial vehicles, so as those models arrive, we’ll push for that. 
“We’re selling Kangoo ZE but Zoe is the stronger seller at the minute. The market that’s probably taking on EV at the fastest rate at the moment is the government, council and energy sectors, where they’re adding three, four or five vehicles to their fleet, and it tends to be Zoe rather than courier-type business. But I think that those courier businesses – because they’ve got huge warehouses with solar panels – that will come fairly quickly. 
“And I think it will be sooner than people in Australia think. Because, overseas, pollution is such an issue, that governments are pushing manufacturers to develop EV. In Beijing, for example, if you want to buy a car, to get a registration plate, you go into a lottery and you have a one-in-200 chance. If you want to buy an EV, you automatically get registration.”  
Year-to-date sales of all EVs (which under VFACTS includes plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) are up almost 20 per cent over last year, but the numbers remain tiny – 895 out of a total of 786,294 registrations to the end of August. Renault sold 39 Zoes and just eight Kangoo ZEs to fleets during this period.

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