Sometimes major events start with a bang, sometimes they are almost silent. Quiet, like an electric car.
This major event was the launch of the electric Renault City K-ZE in China. It is based on the super affordable Renault Kwid first launched in the Indian market. The City K-ZE could well be the most important car of this century thus far.
Cars were available since the 1880s, but they were expensive, luxury goods for the wealthy. The Model T changed all that when launched in 1908. Mass production made it affordable. Motoring for the masses was born.
There is a parallel story with electric vehicles today. Your well-known Teslas, Porsches and Jaguars are expensive, for the very wealthy only. Likewise, the more affordable EVs like Renault’s ZOE, Twizy and Kangoo are still too expensive for the biggest slice of the Chinese market.
That part of the market relies on pollution-heavy older cars, motorcycles and scooters for their transport. It seems the magical affordable price in China is below $9 000, and the City K-ZE comes in at less than $8 700. (Please note that these US$ prices are for comparison only and does not translate directly to prices in the South African market.)
The Renault City K-ZE is a joint venture between Renault and Chinese partner Dongfeng. It uses a Chinese Tianjin Lishen lithium-ion battery with 30kWh of energy capacity, which should give it a range of 180 to 200km between charges. This estimate is based on the WLTP cycle, an accurate endurance test based on real-world driving.
EV range equates to price since battery capacity is the most expensive part of the vehicle. Thus far range has been the holy grail for electric motoring, but the rapid spread of fast charging networks has changed this dynamic. The City K-ZE is the first instance where a major Western manufacturer has chosen price over range.
The City K-ZE should sell well in the huge Chinese market, like the $4 000 Indian-built Renault Kwid it is based on. Renault plans to take the K-ZE to India in about three years, and other markets after that.
Renault is big on EVs, with its current range including the ZOE, Twizy, Kangoo and South Korean RSM SM3 ZE sedan. It plans to have eight EVs and 12 hybrids on the market by 2022. Renault’s alliance partner Nissan is also big on EVs, while its other partner Mitsubishi is very strong in hybrid technology.
The Renault City K-ZE seems destined to be the first truly-affordable EV, bringing electric mobility to the masses. And like the Model T a century ago, inspiring other manufacturers to follow. Good news for the planet.