Regulars of the Vendée Energie Tour know Pascal Houssard who managed the organization of the event. Now retired, the former deputy director general of the departmental energy union has seen the Renault Zoé evolve.
Birth of the Zoé family.
« As part of my duties at SyDEV, which I joined in 2010, I was able to try out almost all the electric vehicles that have been marketed in France. And this, until 2019, when I asserted my rights to retirement “says Pascal Houssard.
« This position allows me today to assess the progress made on the Renault Zoé. It could have evolved even further before giving way to the brand’s next versatile electric car. “, he explains.
In 2005, the Zoé City Car was a 3-seater city car equipped with a 1.2-litre 4-cylinder turbo petrol unit which developed a maximum torque of 145 Nm. Four years later, the Zoé Concept presented in Germany at the Frankfurt was very electric. It was registered in the ZE family which also included the Fluence, Twizy and Kangoo with lithium-ion packs. In 2010, the Zoé Preview unveiled in Paris already had the lines of the model soon to be marketed.
April 2013, tipping point
We are delighted to recall that in mid-December 2012, Carlos Tavares himself, then managing director of Renault, and today a strongman of Stellantis, who is much less keen on the subject of electromobility, gave the Minister of Productive Recovery, Arnaud Montebourg, the keys to a pre-production Zoé. The launch of the marketing for this car presented by its manufacturer as a city car was scheduled for April 2013.
« The SyDEV received its copy that month, in the presence of Béatrice Foucher, now at DS, but who, at the time, was director of Renault’s electric vehicle program. She had come to the general assembly of SyDEV which made it possible to set up in the department the first master plan for the installation of charging stations », Comments Pascal Houssard.
« This program benefited from methodological support from SyDEV by Renault. A year later, we inaugurated two terminals with Nissan engaged in an alliance with Losange: a tri-standard CCS, CHAdeMO and AC 43 kW in La Roche-sur-Yon, and, in Challans, an AC 22 kW with 2 connectors type 3 “, he completes.
Demonstrator and service car
« Our preproduction Zoé served as a demonstrator for more than 2 years. We had flocked it with this message: “You come across a free electron”. This drew attention to our charging infrastructure when it was plugged in “recalls the young retiree.
« At the time, my company vehicle was a Renault Scenic diesel, which I quickly abandoned for the Zoé. I thought she had a nice little face and nice lines. It was silent and already dynamic: a real fun car. That’s it, I felt moments of pleasure every time I boarded. What I have never experienced with another car “, he testifies.
« At the time, the Zoé was one of the few electric vehicles on the market. We were therefore not going to incriminate its autonomy. We were doing with it. For example, I took it easily to get to Nantes at the Regional Council, more than 60 km away. Passing by the coastal roads where the circulation was carried out at 60-70 km/h, I managed in the summer to obtain up to 190-195 km on a recharge. In winter, it dropped to 110 km “, he encrypts.
200 km per day
« With this car, I never really tried to set a record. But, with intermediate recharges, I had to cover at best a little more than 200 km in one day », Reflects Pascal Houssard.
« My most complicated trip with this pre-production Zoé was when my wife and I came back from my parents who live near Tours. It was in winter. There were still no public terminals in Maine-et-Loire. The weather deteriorated more than expected. It was cold, night and it was raining “, he recalls.
« We absolutely had to reach the terminal of Mortagne-sur-Sèvre, in Vendée. We hadn’t put on a heater, but had provided blankets. Driving at a maximum of 70 km/h, we arrived at our destination with 8% energy. This time we had to travel 145 km on one charge, in the middle of winter “, he deduces.
Pau and even further in Zoé
« I never wanted to take the risk of going to Pau with the pre-production Zoé. It’s 500 kilometers from home. There were almost no terminals available. On the other hand, with the Zoé 40, I did it several times. Having a better autonomy makes you want to go further “says Pascal Houssard.
« At SyDEV, we saw these Zoé 40s arrive after the standard 22 models. The departmental union was one of the first professional customers to order them, delivered at the very beginning of 2017. This time, the flocking was limited to the bumpers with the message: “In Vendée, the electric car, it rolls!” “, he reports.
« With one of these examples from the syndicate’s fleet, I traveled as far as Genoa, Italy, as part of the Riviera Electric Challenge and to take part in the round tables at the Ever show in Monaco. This business trip was supplemented by leave which allowed me to see interoperability in France and Italy, up to 1,300 km from my home. “, he puts forward.
Evolution of autonomy
Our interlocutor also traveled the roads of Gran Canaria in 2017 with a rental Zoé, and crossed the Pyrenees with his personal red copy. ” By recharging on terminals of the Corri-Door network in 22 kW AC, I was able to achieve up to 650 km in one day. It was on a Carcassonne stage towards La Roche-sur-Yon, between 8 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. “, he recalls.
Pascal Houssard received his Renault Zoé 2 in September 2021, in Intens finish, like the previous one. She is Violet Blueberry in color. ” I have seen the average autonomy evolve with the new models launched on the market. With the pre-series model, establishing an average summer-winter in the combined cycle, it was around 125 km, just like with the first units on the market. “, he encrypts.
« The appearance of the new engine, in 2015, allowed the range to increase to 140 km. The 41 kWh battery has saved a hundred kilometers, or 240 km. At best, with this model, I was able to travel up to 360 km. Finally, with the Zoé 2 and its 52 kWh pack, the average autonomy now reaches 350 km “, he calculates
« This is not new: I sometimes take the highway with my Zoé. I quickly looked for the speed that allows not to consume too much while not being dangerous for other users. It’s between 95 and 100 km/h », says Pascal Houssard.
« I find that consumption has improved at all speeds, perhaps due to the adoption of a new heat pump. At 130 km/h, it soared to 30 kWh per 100 km with the previous model. The Zoé 2 is more sober: 22-25 kWh/100 km. Which is too much for such a car. It has retained this handicap of being more energy-consuming than a Tesla Model 3 under these conditions. “, he laments.
« I also have a test course on small roads, with an average speed of 30-35 km/h. I used to get between 8 and 8.5 kWh/100 km. With the Zoé 2, the figures fell to 6 kWh / 100 km », Appears-t-il. ” It is in urban, peri-urban, road and countryside uses that Renault’s electric multipurpose is correctly sober. Most often, my consumption is between 11 and 12.5 kWh/100 km “, he summarizes.
Improvement inside too
« With its low-end plastics that took us back 25 years, the interior of the Zoé was really very cheap in 2013. It only really improved with the Zoé 2 in 2019. And not on all points . The front seats still lack adjustments. Because of this, the driver sometimes does not arrive very fresh at the destination after driving 400 km. “says Pascal Houssard.
« The materials are more attractive, the digital presentation has improved, and the tablet is fluid. However, I have a camera problem when I back up. The image darkens and disappears completely “, he admits. ” The seat is now splittable. Heating is much more efficient. Previously, the lighting in the front was a real disaster. It is much more effective at night “, he lists.
« The feeling behind the wheel is also better. On the road, outside the expressways, the Eco mode will now suffice most often. It is already very dynamic. He was really anemic with the older models. This is the advantage of having moved to an engine power of 92 to 135 horsepower. The car is quieter too, and better filters the roughness of the road. “, he adds.
« The Renault Zoé has made electric mobility visible in France. However, with perverse effects. Many people still think that battery rental is mandatory with it, but also with all other electric cars. This is however not or no longer the case “recalls Pascal Houssard.
« The versatile Diamond has evolved. However, it retains shortcomings, such as the absence of rapid recharging as standard. However, it is becoming almost essential for traveling far. Those who are not in too much of a hurry can be satisfied with its endowment, and in particular the 22 kW AC charger which is a real plus in the face of the competition. “, he points.
« It is possible to cover more than 500 km with a Zoé 2 in one day via the charging box. Those who will never have to make big trips will be the most satisfied with this electric car. This will not prevent you from moving on the fast lanes where it will be wise not to press the accelerator too much “, concludes our interlocutor.
Automobile Propre and I warmly thank Pascal Houssard for his testimony and for allowing us to carry out a test drive of his new Renault Zoé. I had fun researching my first interview with him. It was in June 2014.