Episode 1: Turning the “sunlight” on ZOE, Twizy and Kangoo Z.E. in Reunion Renault’s electric vehicles are currently available in 18 countries and continue to be launched in markets around the world.

Renault ZE

The rollout process will now be accompanied by a monthly saga article. The first focuses on the island of Reunion, where ZOE, Twizy and Kangoo Z.E. recently arrived in Renault dealerships. Local conditions in the new market led to the development of solar panel-powered charging stations, an innovative solution that means Renault electric vehicles here can run and charge in zero-emission mode.

Renault ZOE Cars

GBH, Renault’s importer and distributor in Reunion, started selling Twizy, ZOE and Kangoo Z.E. on November 11, 2013 through long-term, five-year leasing contracts priced, respectively, at €299, €599 and €499 a month, VAT included.

2014 objective: a charging station every 15 kilometers

Reunion is ideally suited to the introduction of electric vehicles owing to its compact size, facilitating the link-up of charging stations, and the population’s average daily driving distance of just 24 kilometers.

Because public-access charging stations were vital to the launch of the three models, Renault worked upstream on the introduction of the infrastructure. Implementing a comprehensive charging network is easier here than in Metropolitan France as the stations are concentrated on the coast. Today, 19 charging stations are up and running, with the first users “filling up” their vehicles free of charge. The network is to be expanded to 27 stations by the end of 2013, with an objective of one station every 15 kilometers in 2014.

Renault ZE 2014

Zero-emission charging stations

In parallel with this charging network, Renault has joined forces with Sunzil to introduce private charging stations going under the name of “Autozil”. Autozil stations are equipped with solar canopies and roofs equipped with photovoltaic panels and an electricity storage system enabling the daily charge of electric vehicles, so motorists can charge their ZOE, Twizy or Kangoo Z.E. with “green” electricity independently of the network operated by the EDF utility.

The development of the innovative Autozil charging stations was motivated by a local constraint, namely that part of Reunion’s electricity is generated by CO

2-emitting thermal power stations, which diminish the environmental benefit of electric vehicles. As an island, Reunion has very few connections with the continental electricity network. Also, the electricity supply-and-demand balance is more fragile here than on the continent. If all electric motorists were to charge their cars in the evening, during peak demand period, the fragility of the electricity network could be exacerbated, leading to power outages.

The situation required an “autonomous” charging infrastructure independent of the local electricity network. And Reunion has harnessed all its expertise in photovoltaic technology to meet that need.

Renault-ZE Sale

Reunion’s photovoltaic expertise

With an average 52 peak watts of photovoltaic electricity per inhabitant (compared with the French average of 1.6 peak watts), Reunion has considerable solar resources and top-level expertise in photovoltaic panels. The photovoltaic sector on the island comprises some 70 companies for a total 500 megawatts.

VERT tests the electric vehicle ecosystem in Reunion

The VERT project (short for “Véhicule Electrique pour une Réunion Technologique”, or “Electric vehicles for a technological Reunion”), backed by seven public and private partners (Renault, Sunzil, Schneider Electric, EDF, Bernard Hayot Group and Total), was launched in 2010 to test the use of electric vehicles charged using CO

2-virtuous solar-powered stations. The project, supported by ADEME*, originated as part of a government initiative to proactively promote electric mobility in Reunion, notably through the “Réussir Innovation” (“Succeeding in innovation”) program in the Grenelle environmental plan for Reunion.

VERT has laid the groundwork for the successful launch of electric vehicles in Reunion and comprehensively trialled vehicle charging using photovoltaic generators not connected to the electricity network.

The arrival of Renault electric vehicles in the island of Reunion is a first step in frenches overseas departments. In 2014, they’ll be on sale in French Guyana and French West Indies.

* ADEME: French environment and energy managemnet agency on low-carbon vehicles