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Renault Kangoo Bebop electric: Test Drive Review

Date: 30 July 2009

Electric Renault Bebop
P11D price: £13,125
Category: Green
Key rival: Toyota Prius

Renault's vision of "democratising" the electric car via affordable technology and a wider audience puts business users firmly in focus.

The scale and proximity of its zero emission ambitions involves producing 100,000 electric vehicles annually from 2012 with the Kangoo Bebop ZE as the initial mainstay of a range due to grow to four models within three years.

Renault provided us with the opportunity to drive its 100-mile range electric Kangoo MPV although the company will major on its van counterpart for predominantly urban LCV fleets.

Weighing 240kgs more than its 1.5-litre 85PS diesel equivalent, the prototype opalescent blue Kangoo has a 44-kilowatt or 61PS electric motor under its bonnet, linked to a 250kg pack of lithium-ion batteries tucked below the cabin.

Apart from lurid sun reflective paintwork, push-pull gear lever and minor aerodynamic tweaks the only subtle external clue is a rectangular bonnet flap housing the charging plug point. Sensibly, a standard automotive industry cable and socket format has been agreed.

Before production examples materialise, the mains and off-peak re-chargeable batteries will be moved to below the rear hatchback area, without compromising luggage space; the ride height will rise slightly and suspension tuned accordingly.

Monthly rental of the battery pack, with the option of "quick drop" exchange centres, is likely to be between £100 and £200.

Christine Tissot, the electric car project's business manager, claims market research shows that the public wants a "familiar and safe option for managing change to running and driving an electric car."

Renault has fulfilled that remit on the cosmetic and ergonomic fronts with the Kangoo but two purpose-built electric models, a two seater urban runabout and a small hatchback - fitting between Clio and Modus - are due by 2012.

Green-tinged control, instruments and trim feature in the Be Bop's interior. Operating and driving the electric Kangoo is simplicity itself.

Turn the key, wait for a beep, pull the gear lever back to D, press the accelerator gently and whir off on to the suburban streets of Chantilly, near Paris.

Using direct drive and no graduated ratios the Bebop ZE picks up speed briskly, reaching 50mph in a silent seven seconds, although accelerating up to the 81mph maximum is more sedate, albeit seamless.

There is a muted turbine-like whine at higher speeds, which accentuates bodywork wind noise and tyre roar. ACEA, the European motor industry body, is being consulted about some kind of speed-related sound, particularly for urban pedestrian safety.

On variable surfaces the batteries' bulk and weight does not threaten to pitch the Kangoo into the scenery and the car's handling and roadholding are undramatically normal.

Braking techniques require adjustment. Lift off the accelerator and the car slows markedly before you need apply the left hand pedal. Not only should fleets save on replacement pads and discs but such is the force of deceleration thanks to the regenerative braking, the company believes conventional rear warning lights need to register the slowing to avoid tailgating crashes.

Minor details in a major motoring revolution.

Renault Kangoo Bebop electric
P11D price£13,125**
Fuel consumptionn/a
Service intervaln/a
Insurancegroup 6*
Warrantybattery life six years
Boot space (min/max)660/2866 litres
Engine size/powerelectric/61PS
Top speed/0-50mph81mph/7.0secs
On saleMid-2011
VerdictRenault’s joined-up,
silent electric revolution
is almost upon us
* estimate, ** incorporating £5000 Government subsidy