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Renault Zoe vs rivals - cost analysis

Date: 29 March 2017   |   Author: Debbie Wood

We're all pretty clued-up about the benefits to zero-emission driving these days. Not only do electric cars help to improve air quality, lower your SMR costs and bring a reduction in BIK tax bills, they also deliver huge savings by not relying on fuel.

According to many experts, we are now getting very close to mass adoption of electric cars here in the UK. But they're still a niche choice for many fleets because higher P11D prices and anxieties over range remain key stumbling blocks.

A whole-life cost approach is essential and, as discussed in the previous pages, they have to be fit for purpose to provide enough savings to outweigh the initial cost. But technology is improving at a considerable rate and battery ranges are increasing with every update. The Renault Zoe, for example, refreshed in 2016, now offers an official 250-mile range - the best the sector has to offer, Tesla aside.

When it comes to sales, it's the Nissan Leaf that tops the charts in the UK, but many would be surprised to learn that the Renault Zoe is actually Europe's best-selling EV with over 100,000 sold to date.  And its popularity looks set to further increase with the introduction of this latest model, launched in November last year, the update saw the Zoe's battery capacity double and Renault predict an everyday range of 186 miles in the summer, falling to 124 miles in the winter.

According to the French carmaker, if you use the most efficient means possible, like charging at night, running a Zoe could cost as little as 2p per mile in warmer weather, rising to 3ppm when the nights draw in. As well as offering the best range of our four cars here, the Zoe is also the cheapest to buy with P11D prices starting as low as £18,440. Despite some disappointing residual values, which are a common theme for most electric cars currently, the Zoe is the cheapest per mile too, costing 52.9p.  

The new 41kWh battery will take around nine hours to charge from a standard three-pin plug, while using the 7kWh home wallbox drops this to just over seven hours. There are two choices of motor, named Q90 and R90, and what differentiates them is that the R90 is more efficient, and has a 20-mile longer range, but is more expensive, while the cheaper Q90 is quicker to charge. We've picked the former for this comparison, but our advice would be to go for the latter if you're planning on taking the Zoe on the motorway often and using rapid chargers.

Driving the Zoe is simple. Its compact dimensions, light steering and small turning circle make easy work of city living, and the immediate torque on offer makes the car feel nippy, despite being the slowest here - officially, the 0-62mph dash takes 13.2 seconds.

Overall ride quality is good, although on rougher surfaces the car gets quite bumpy and the brakes are a little sharp too, especially when selecting Eco mode, which triggers some aggressive regenerative braking.

It's not the most practical of our list of cars, with a 338-litre boot, and rear legroom could be better. Also, you still can't lower the driver's seat, which will prove annoying for taller passengers.

You can buy the Zoe in three trims. Here, we've picked the mid-range Dynamique Nav, which comes with a variety of kit as standard. This includes the firm's R-Link Multimedia system with sat-nav and voice-control functions, cruise control, parking sensors and climate control - good value for money when you consider its price.

Renault Zoe Dynamique Nav 41kWh R90 - 52.2p CPM

P11D: £27,890
CO2 (tax): 0g/km (7%)
BIK 20/40% per month: £33/£65
Official range: 250 miles
National Insurance: £1,116
Boot space: 338 litres
Battery size/power: 41kW/92hp
0-62mph: 13.5 seconds

Residual value: 18.7%/£5,225
Fuel costs: £600
SMR: £890

Nissan Leaf - 59.2p


The biggest-selling electric car here in the UK by some margin, the Nissan Leaf also had a battery upgrade in 2016, which saw its range increase up to 155 miles.

Not only is the Leaf the most popular of our models here, it's also the most practical, offering a 355-litre boot and the most interior space. The Nissan is also easy to drive and comfortable over longer distances.

Despite it being one of the most recognisable electric cars on the market, a disappointing residual value figure of 16.8% is a big reason for it being the most expensive of our list per mile for whole-life costs. SMR bills are only bettered by the Zoe, though, and, while more expensive than the Renault and Hyundai, Nissan offers the option to lease the battery so costs can be reduced further.  

The Leaf was one of the first mainstream electric cars to go on sale in the UK, so it's starting to look a little dated next to some of the newer models, and some of the interior quality can be a little hit and miss, especially in comparison to the cheaper Ioniq and Zoe, both of which outstrip the Leaf in official range too.

If using a domestic plug, the Leaf takes 12 hours to charge, or using a fitted wallbox will take around seven hours.

You can choose the car in the familiar three trims, Visia, Acenta and Tekna, and standard kit for mid-range Acenta includes Bluetooth, air-con, daytime running lights, a seven-inch colour touchscreen, revering camera, 16-inch alloy wheels and cruise control.

Nissan Leaf Acenta 30kWh

P11D: £30,235
CO2 (tax): 0g/km (7%)
BIK 20/40% per month: £35/£71
Official range: 153 miles
National Insurance: £1,210
Boot space: 355 litres
Battery size/power: 30kW/111hp
0-62mph: 11.5 seconds

Residual value: 16.9%/£5,100
Fuel costs: £980
SMR: £1,029

BMW i3 - 56.7p


First launched in 2013, the i3 not only marked the start of BMW's EV model range, it also moved the game forwards considerably for electric car technology as a whole. It was a game-changer in every sense, and although it's struggled to gain momentum in sales against its rivals, the i3 has remained one of the most desirable and technologically advanced electric cars on the market.

A battery update in 2016 doubled the car's range to 195 miles officially on one charge, although the carmaker believes 125 miles is more realistic in real-world conditions, plus the i3 is also fitted with a new charging system that is 50% faster.

A full charge will take up to four hours using public charging points, plus the previously optional 50kW DC rapid charging is now included as standard, charging 80% of the battery in just 40 minutes.

The 170hp and 250Nm deliver a 0-62mph time of 7.3 seconds - by far the quickest of the four cars here - and it's the most engaging to drive out of our list too thanks to its sharp handling and light steering.

It may be the most expensive here, but the i3 beats the competition hands down on residual values, which helps to keep its pence-per-mile figure competitive.

Boot space lags behind the other cars at 260 litres, but standard kit is generous with sat-nav, climate control, parking sensors, cruise control, LED daytime running lights, online connectivity services, a 6.5-inch screen with iDrive controller, and automatic headlights and wipers all included.

BMW i3 94ah eDrive

P11D: £32,485
CO2 (tax): 0g/km (7%)
BIK 20/40% per month: £38/£76
Official range: 195 miles
National Insurance: £1,300
Boot space: 260 litres
Battery size/power: 33kW/170hp
0-62mph: 7.3 seconds

Residual value: 30.2%/£9,825
Fuel costs: £1,200
SMR: £1,216

Hyundai Ioniq - 54.9p


The first car to be available in hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric forms, the Ioniq moved Hyundai into new territory when the car was launched last year. It's all part of the firm's plans to have as many as 28 eco-friendly models on sale by 2020.

Arguably the most eye-catching of the four cars, the Ioniq also has one of the biggest boots, and its official 174-mile range is one of the best on offer here too. RVs, as we explained earlier, leave a lot to be desired for EVs in general; however, the Ioniq still manages to better both the Zoe and Leaf at 20.3%, and only the Renault is cheaper per mile for whole-life costs.

Service, maintenance and repair costs are a little higher than the rest, but standard equipment betters most rivals and is very generous, with sat-nav, lane-keep assist, Apple CarPlay, rear parking sensors, dual-zone air-con and reversing camera all included in this mid-spec'd Premium version picked here.

The Ioniq is also the second quickest from 0-62mph, completing the benchmark sprint in 10.2 seconds. It's not the last word in sporting dynamics - from our list here the i3 firmly takes the crown - but the Ioniq is a stylish and cost-effective choice, which gives other EVs something to worry about.

According to Hyundai, an 80% recharge takes just 23 minutes using a 100kW super-rapid fast-charger, although not many of these are currently available. Charging from a wallbox takes around four and a half hours and using a domestic plug will take around 12 hours to fully charge.

Hyundai Ioniq Premium

P11D: £28,940
CO2 (tax): 0g/km (7%)
BIK 20/40% per month: £34/£68
Official range: 174 miles
National Insurance: £1,158
Boot space: 350 litres
Battery size/power: 28kW/120hp
0-62mph: 10.2 seconds

Residual value: 20.3%/£5,875
Fuel costs: £862
SMR: £1,222

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