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The ‘too good to be true’ e-car: Renault Zoe e-Sport

The Renault Zoe e-Sport proves that electric vehicles can change their goody-goody image. Too bad you’ll never be able to buy it!

brunch Updated: Mar 24, 2018 23:11 IST
Hormazd Sorabjee
Hormazd Sorabjee
Hindustan Times
Renault Zoe e-Sport,renault,electric vehicles
The Renault Zoe e-Sport shows what the cars of the future could be like and can hit a high of 210 kph without any jerks

Electric Vehicles or EVs is the new buzzword in the car world and if governments and the auto industry are to be believed, we are the on the verge of an electric vehicle revolution. It’s a future we have to embrace no doubt, but for us driving enthusiasts, EVs, which have the reputation of being insipid and boring, could rob us of the joy of driving.

That’s the cue for the electric blue Renault Zoe e-Sport concept to make a grand entrance at the Dubai Autodrome. Now, before you ask, no, it’s not coming to a showroom near you, in fact it’s not coming to a showroom at all. This car isn’t ever going to be made. So why am I driving it? It’s a demo car to show that EVs, apart from their goody-goody image of saving the planet, can also be fast and fun.

Electric Boogaloo

Okay, Tesla has already proved that EVs can deliver sports car levels of acceleration, but the Zoe e-Sport takes it to another level by bundling Porsche-slaying performance in what is an ordinary hatchback.

The truth is, the Zoe e-Sport is not an ordinary hatchback but one that is underpinned with Renault’s electric race car technology from the Formula E racing series. It packs two electric motors, one each for the front and rear pair of wheels respectively, that collectively produce 460 hp of pure electric power.

Hunkered down on massive 20-inch alloy wheels that sit under outrageously flared out wheel arches, the e-Sport with all its various appendages certainly looks the part.

Inside, it’s all racing car too and I feel like a pro, clambering through the roll cage (a web of tubular hoops to protect you), dropping myself into a deep bucket seat and getting strapped in tightly with a six-point harness.

There’s a single screen in front of me which looks very high-tech, but other than that, it’s a stripped out cabin with not much by way of creature comforts. Forget air-conditioning, there isn’t even a proper blower. The windows are fixed and don’t roll down, whilst the door handles are flimsy levers.

Turn on the e-Sport and you can hear various whooshes and whirrs as it comes alive. Select ‘Drive’, engage the highest voltage setting (for maximum power) via the rotary controls on the dashboard and the e-Sport is primed for take off.

Zip, zap, stop

The car cabin is quite basic with just a single screen and no air-conditioning

You know the car is alive when a gentle prod of the right pedal makes the e-Sport lunge forward like a startled cat. The smallest flex of your foot is met with instant response and there is absolutely no delay in power delivery.

It takes me a while to adjust to the relative lack of sound. There are no vibrations, no exhaust note, just a steady hum from the electric motors and cooling fans behind me, which sounds like some industrial machine. It all feels quite alien.

With an empty racetrack in front of me, I press down on the accelerator and the hum turns into a high pitched whine as the e-Sport rockets forward. The acceleration is incredible and pushes me back into the deeply contoured bucket seat. What I can’t get my head round is how the rapid build up of speed is accompanied by a complete lack of drama. There’s none of the noise of a shrieking engine, no jerks from gear changes but just a strong seamless and linear shove forward, which actually serves to mask the feeling of speed. This electric prototype hits its 210 kph top speed very quickly, but like in most EVs, hitting Vmax is like hitting a wall – the power abruptly tails off.

Racing underpinnings give the e-Sport sabre sharp responses and it handles like a go-kart darting from one corner to next which only adds to the fun factor. But the fun is short-lived. The Zoe e-Sport’s range is a mere 10 hard laps of the Dubai Autodrome. The limited range is the main stumbling block for high-performance EVs. However, with galloping advancement in battery technology, it’s only a matter of time that cars like this will become a showroom reality. The Zoe e-Sport is a peek into the future and the template for a high performance hatchback in the next decade.

Hormazd Sorabjee is one of the most senior and much loved auto journalists in India, and is editor of Autocar India

From HT Brunch, March 25, 2018

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First Published: Mar 24, 2018 21:48 IST