Renault K-ZE

The interior of a Renault City K-ZE.
The modernist interior of a Renault 4.

A Renault K-ZE is being considered as an electric vehicle. One headline explained it all. “New Renault City K-ZE revealed in Shanghai as cheap electric SUV.” Yes, the operational word is cheap. This is not the only operative word in my automotive vocabulary. Safe, electric and autonomous are also important words. Tall is also important, as in 1 600 or higher vehicle height. However, tall is also important in terms of ground clearance in a snowy, poorly plowed landscape. Here, 180 mm (as in K-ZE) sound much more impressive than 120 mm (as in Zöe).

The K-ZE will not be available in Europe before 2021, at the earliest. Between now and then, there will be a lot of different EVs to consider, including the following already available: Kia e Niro, Kia Soul, Hyundai Kona, Renault Zöe, Citroen e Mehari, as well as the proposed Volkswagen I.D., Buzz and Buggy. If the range of a Citroen Berlingo could double beyond its current 170 km, it would be close to the top of the class. The same could also be said about the Renault Kangoo. The Nissan Evalia/ e NV200 gets slightly better range, but is much more expensive, eliminating it from the list of potential products.

Note: Some people may mistakenly believe that a Citröen 2CV represents my ideal car. This has never been the case. I much prefer utility vehicles such as the 2CV AZU Fourgonnette panel van, and its successors, the AK 400 Fourgonette, and the Acadiane. My interest stops there, avoiding the C15 entirely, and beginning again with the Berlingo.

When I looked at the interior of the Renault K-ZE, I focused my attention on the number of actuators (buttons) a driver would have to press, turn or otherwise manipulate. In contrast to many current cars, there seemed to be few. In many respects, European economy vehicles such as a Fiat 600 Multipla, Hillman Husky, Morris Minor 1000 Traveller, Renault 4 or even a slightly less practical but more popular Volkswagen Beetle of the 1960s have always represented a personal gold standard in terms of actuator manipulation.

While the K-ZE is based on the Renault Kwid, dimensions of the new vehicle have not been released, so Kwid dimensions have been used in the table below.

SpecificationK-ZE (Kwid)Zöe
Length/ mm3 6794 084
Width/ mm1 5791 730
Height/ mm1 5131 562
Ground Clearance Unladen/ mm180120
Wheel Base/ mm2 4222 588
Cargo Volume/ litres300338

Currently, the Renault Zöe costs NOK 215 000 (which is about the equivalent of USD 26 000/ CAD 36 000). This includes NOK 15 000 for the installation of a battery charger. The range of the Zöe is 240 km, and the expected range of the K-ZE is 250 km, both calculated using the NEDC-cycle. It is stated that the K-ZE will cost less than the Zöe.

Range is not a major consideration. The vehicle would have to have an ability to make a weekly run to pick up supplies in Straumen (13 km away = 26 km round trip), Steinkjer (35 km away = 70 km round trip) or make a day trip out to the coast. Yesterday’s daytrip to Ørlandet was 317 km. In the future, this might have to involve an overnighting, because of charging challenges. However, this fact makes vehicles with a longer range more attractive.

Normal charging at home (AC) was a challenge for Zoe, and could create problems for the K-ZE, since the vehicle could only be charged on a TN-net (400V 3-phase). This challenge was partly solved by providing a dedicated charging box and associated separator (which in essence “converts” 230V 1-phase to 3-phase).

Another aspect of this problem, has been solved by the Stavanger company Zaptec AS, that developed a small charging cable, with a built-in separator. With this, a Zoe can be charged without problems. The charging power is 10A with this cable.

NORMAL CHARGING: Charging with 2.3 kW / 10A takes 20 hours / 3.6 kW / 16A takes 12-13 hours / 11 kW / 16A (3-phase) takes 3 hours and 20 min / 22 kW / 32A (3-phase ) takes an hour and 40 minutes. QUICK CHARGE: The Zöe should be able to load 0-80 percent in less than an hour in the summer (with 43 kW AC found in a few places), but can take much longer in the winter. DC quick charging is not possible.

The exterior of a Renault K-ZE.

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