The Renault Zoe is here to electrify Singapore



Can’t wait to drive an electric car? Renault’s Zoe, a battery-powered hatchback, was launched here today. Challenges remain for such vehicles, however. One of them is price

SINGAPORE — The most famous Zoe in Singapore is an actress, but in Europe it’s a car. The Renault Zoe is a battery-powered hatchback that was launched in Singapore today. It was Europe’s best-selling Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) in 2017.

The Zoe’s launch brings the total number of BEVs available here to a total of five, joining the BMW i3, Hyundai Ioniq Electric, and Tesla’s Model S and Model X.

It’s priced at S$139,999 inclusive of Certificate Of Entitlement.

The money doesn’t buy a huge amount of car. The Zoe has a 91 horsepower motor and needs 13.2 seconds to accelerate to 100km/h. In contrast, the Hyundai Ioniq Electric (which costs S$139,888 with COE) gallops to the same speed in 9.9 seconds, thanks to its more powerful 120 horsepower motor.

The Renault is also a compact car for the money. At 4,085mm long and 1,730mm wide, it is smaller than a Volkswagen Golf, which starts at S$111,400 with COE.

Nor does the car’s price include a wall charger that can be installed at the customer’s home or office, which costs “around S$5,000” according to a source from Wearnes Automotive, the Renault importer.

Still, Renault believes there is a case for the Zoe, given that BEVs offer a different driving experience. “EVs are always extremely pleasant to drive,” says Emmanuel Bouvier, the marketing director for Renault Asia Pacific. “They are silent, they offer good torque, they are the only zero-emission solution in terms of powertrain.”

He says that 95 percent of current Zoe customers in other countries would recommend one. “In a nutshell, customers in the countries where we sell Zoe who have shifted from their petrol engine or diesel engine to an electric vehicle don’t want to go back,” he says.

Wearnes Automotive says the Zoe would save its owner S$2,196 a year in running costs, compared to a similar 1.4-litre “combustion engine vehicle”. Because EVs have relatively few moving parts, the electric hatchback costs just S$200 to service every 30,000km. Wearnes calculates that it can travel 367km on a full charge, which costs S$9.02.

Renault also took the covers off the Kangoo Z.E., a BEV-version of its Kangoo panel van.

Aimed at fleet customers, the Kangoo Z.E. costs 3 cents per km to operate, compared to 10 cents for a comparable diesel vehicle, says Wearnes.

SP Group, the nation’s power grid operator, currently runs a fleet of 30 BEVs made up by the previous Kangoo Z.E. model. It says that in 140,000km of cumulative mileage, the vehicles have had no breakdowns. The group plans to electrify its entire vehicle fleet, and will operate around 300 of them eventually.

Goh Chee Kiong, the head of strategic development at SP Group, does see a future for widespread BEV adoption in Singapore, and says that the introduction of more models such as the Zoe is one factor that could spur that development. “I’m of the strong belief that it’s just a matter of time. Clearly the car manufacturers around the world, Renault and many others, are putting more new EV models on the roads globally. More EV models in our view will be coming to Singapore, so for those that are looking to buy EVs, you have more options moving forward,” he says.

Mr Goh also points out that prices for such vehicles are “falling steadily”. Estimates from Bloomberg, a media group, and Morgan Stanley, an investment bank, predict that the total cost of owning a BEV will be the same as that for a petrol or diesel car by 2025, he says.

Nevertheless, while fleet operators such as SP Group (or espeically SP Group) are able to install their own charging points, the question of where regular drivers will charge their BEVs in Singapore remains an open one.

Car-sharing operator BlueSG is building a network of charging points that will number 2,000 in total, but only 500 of these will be available to members of the public.

“There must be a pervasive charging network in Singapore,” says Mr Goh. If charging points are scarce, that would only give EV drivers range anxiety. “No matter what, the lack of a charging network is a huge impediment. We believe that singapore needs to address that,” he says.

Mr Goh says for EVs to take off, the country needs “thousands” of charging points spread around the island so that drivers would never have to hunt for one. “There should be one just around the corner,” he says.

For now, the actress’ crown as the most famous Zoe in Singapore seems secure. 

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Leow Ju-Len
Leow Ju-Len is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 23 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.