Greener motoring isn't just for car drivers - vans are going to need to join in with the electric revolution sooner rather than later. Step forward the all-electric Z.E. version of the popular Renault Kangoo van. Can the benefits of electric entice business and commercial drivers away from petrol and diesel fuel?
The new Renault Kangoo ZE has recently been given a battery upgrade, increasing significantly from 22kWh to 33kWh and increasing its range by a similar proportion. This upgrade has made all the difference to the Kangoo and makes it more usable and far more practical than the previous version.
The official range quoted by Renault is 170 miles, but expect this number to be around 100-120 miles in the real world depending on factors such as ambient temperature, driving conditions and of course how much payload you're carrying.
The Z.E. will accept power from a 7kW charger, which will charge it to 100% in around six hours, via a socket neatly hidden behind the prominent diamond-shaped Renault badge on the grille. A 3.7kW wall box will of course take around twice the time. If you haven't got a wall box available and you need to plug it into a standard three-pin plug socket, it will take around 17 hours to fully charge. Vans have to work for a living and it just won't do to have a limit of only 7 hours off the charger, so it's probably in your interest to get access to a wall box charger.
The Renault Kangoo ZE is eligible for the government's Plug-In Van Grant (PIVG), which contributes 35% towards the cost of vans under 2.5 tonnes, up to £3,000. This represents a good saving off the list price and will serve to tempt more people out of their traditional diesel van.
Renault claims that the Kangoo ZE will cost around four pence per mile to run, based on an average electricity tariff, which is far cheaper and more efficient than diesel engine equivalent vehicles. It should cost around £5 for a full charge, which is just a fraction of a tank of diesel, so the figures should add up nicely and add up to more miles for your money.
The Renault Kangoo comes with a three year, 60,000-mile warranty on the van itself, and a maximum five year or 60,000-mile warranty on the battery pack, whichever comes first. This should give business owners peace of mind that the battery won't let them down at a critical time.
Services should be cheaper than the diesel engine equivalent due to fewer moving parts, although it may go through tyres a little quicker due to its increased weight. You might find less wear on the brakes too, as the electric motor assists in slowing the van down in order to regenerate the battery from the braking energy.
Honestly, there isn't much in the way of "performance" to speak of. The 59bhp electric motor is intended to offer reasonable range rather than outright speed, mindful that the Renault Kangoo ZE is likely to spend most of its life in urban environments. However, electric motors are known for providing instant torque, so the Kangoo van is surprisingly quick off the line. But it will still take over 21 seconds to reach 60mph.
The driving experience is surprisingly serene in the Renault Kangoo, which wafts silently along at low speeds, with the main sources of sound volume coming from the wind hitting the tall body, and road noise from the tarmac and tyres. The Kangoo feels planted and steady on the road, and uneven road surfaces cause it no issue at all. The weight of the battery pack under the floor gives it a low centre of gravity meaning that it corners well too.
The steering is light and easy to use, and once you've got used to the difference of driving an electric vehicle, you'll find that the Renault Kangoo can almost be driven just with the one pedal thanks to the brake regeneration tech. Drivers will love the fact that the electric motor only has a one speed automatic gearbox, so there are no gears to change endlessly in stop-start city traffic.
The Renault Kangoo is not a bad looking van, but equally, it's not particularly exciting to look at either. But it is primarily a commercial and business vehicle, so it's definitely a matter of function over form - style is not the point of the Kangoo.
It looks more or less identical to the standard Renault Kangoo van, with only eagle-eyed observers noticing that the petrol or diesel fuel flap is missing from this vehicle.
There is a door on the side and double doors to the rear to give access to the load area, which has plenty of available space to assist in loading and carrying a practical amount of cargo. The crew van comes with a door each side to aid access to the rear seats.
The Renault Kangoo ZE electric model has a maximum permitted payload of 640kg, which is less than the equivalent diesel version due to the extra weight of the battery pack. Depending on whether you choose the standard van, the maxi with its extra length, or the crew van with a car like rear seat and side windows, you'll get between 3 and 4.6 cubic metres of capacity for cargo. These aren't the best figures of all-electric vans on sale, but it should be enough for most scenarios.
When you climb on board into the driver's seat you're met with a sparse, utilitarian interior full of hard and brittle plastics. It isn't the nicest place to be, especially considering the up-to-date tech under the skin. It's admittedly rather dark, dingy and dull in there. The steering wheel adjusts up and down but not for reach, but you can get reasonably comfortable in your seat.
You can either specify a steel bulkhead or a caged bulkhead with an opening door to help carry items of greater length, which is a real benefit. The crew van also has a moveable bulkhead and you can remove the seats to gain load capacity if you need to.
The Kangoo has nifty tech in the form of a pre-heating system to warm everything up without affecting your range of miles, so by the time you get into the Kangoo Z.E. it should be ready to go.
Safety tech is fairly sparse in the Kangoo, with one airbag, ABS and ESP as standard. There are other safety options available, so if safety is a priority make sure to look at the Renault Kangoo options list.
The Kangoo is only available for sale as a company lease on finance, so it is VAT efficient and keeps company costs down. Speak to your local Renault dealer for currently available new prices. Otherwise, with zero emissions, large savings versus filling with petrol or diesel, and the electric van grant, the electric Kangoo ZE represents a sensible choice