Renault Zoe ZE electric concept at 2009 Frankfurt motor show

Published: 15 September 2009 Updated: 26 January 2015

This is the Renault Zoe ZE concept, just unveiled at the 2009 Frankfurt motor show. It’s the most radical of Renault’s four electric concept cars, but it will influence an electric supermini that will go on sale in 2012.

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Renault’s Zoe ZE concept looks pretty ‘out there’ for a supermini. Is it?

It is. The Zoe ZE is longer, wider and taller than a Clio, has 21-inch wheels, and the front and rear lights are covered in a polyurethane gel for protection. There’s also gullwing doors at the front, plus butterfly doors at the back, and they open to expose the entire interior of the Zoe ZE and provide access to the boot from the pavement. A spoiler also pops up above 56mph to improve the aerodynamics.

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What about the battery power ?

The lithium-ion batteries power a 70kW (95hp) electric motor. The concept might weigh 1400kg, but Renault claims the electric urge of 167lb ft is enough for the rear-drive Zoe ZE to reach 88mph, and there’s a 100-mile range. Air intakes ahead of the rear wheels help cool the batteries, while vents at the back give a glimpse of the streamlined suspension.

That roof looks pretty special – tell me about it

The Zoe ZE has a special roof with a honeycomb of photovoltaic cells that recover solar energy, and there’s also an intelligent protective membrane that insulates the interior and regulates against extremes of temperature.

There’s also a new climate control system. Developed with L’Oréal, it can spray essential oils into the Zoe ZE to suit the occupants mood, cut out harmful exterior smells, or rehydrate the interior to prevent skin drying out. Mmm…

And inside?

Look up and you’ll see through the roof, and look ahead into the rear view mirror and you’ll see the images relayed by two external cameras that replace the regular door-mounted mirrors.

The seatbacks are attached to the roof rather than mounted to the floor, and the three passenger seats can be folded down so there’s either a 150, 325 or 500-litre boot.

Most of the dash is one big touchscreen, while a wide TFT screen is housed in a glass bubble and displays the sat-nav and remaining range. There’s also an avatar that relays traffic information and directs the driver to the nearest charging points – Renault claims this humanising of technology helps to make journeys more pleasant. The interior mood lighting can also be customised, or set to automatically react to the colour of the driver’s clothes, while the hands-free key card can be personalised by attaching a chip to any object of the owner’s choosing. 

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By Ben Pulman

Ex-CAR editor-at-large