ZE connect, finally some action

My first experience with ZE connect wasn’t all that great. But this morning I finally got some usable information. When I woke up, I opened the ZE connect app and could follow the the status of my battery with half hour updates. Really neat:



And this was the status I got after plugging in at work. It shows the car as not being plugged in, but it certainly was, I made 100% sure of that. So while the updates are cool, they are not reliable.


To get you some up-to-date information, there is a button somewhere in the app to request that. But I have had very little success using it. Most of the times I get this vague, ambiguous message:

Vague and ambiguous error

It reveals that the programmers at Renault throw useful information in the bit bucket, and then present one generic error message to their customers, leaving them to figure out what the real reason is.

Shortly before leaving to home, I decided to try out the ‘Charge now’ function. This sms was the result:

Charging unsuccessful

Translation: “Charging the car could not start. Communication failed, car disconnected or charging already”. Kudos to Renault for being consitent: they consistently leave their customers in the dark by offering nothing helpful, just a bunch of suggestions. Figure it out yourself!

A second attempt to start charging was successful. But the unreliability makes this function a gimmick, not something you can rely on.

First time out of range

My Zoe and me we went out on an adventure today. I decided it was time for her to go out of range from the home base. I assume that this is a kind of a thrill for any electric vehicle owner: the first time to venture out so far that you must charge your car ‘in the wild’ to get home.

I searched for the right charger on oplaadpalen.nl. The station was located on a public parking lot that has no gate or fence and has the right Mennekes plug. So this morning, I got behind the wheel and I commanded the TomTom to direct me to the charging station where I planned to feed my Zoe. An ominous message appeared on screen:
Non public charging station warning
After clicking ‘Yes’, i got this:

Incompatible plug warning

What to do? The info on oplaadpalen.nl stated that the charger is operated by ‘e-laad’ and I had already tried out one of their charging stations in my neighborhood and it worked like a charm with my ‘LoveToLoad’ card (from TheNewMotion), so I figured that it was simply due to the correct plug not being set in TomTom. Through Google Streetview I had verified the charger was on an accessible parking lot. So I decided to take the risk and ignore the message. There were other charging stations nearby and I guessed I would arrive with at least 50 km of range left. The prime directive: always have a backup plan in case the charger of choice doesn’t work.

I set off with 136 km range indicated on the GoM*). After driving 81 km (mostly motorway @ 98 km/h cruise control), I got to my destination with 46%/67 km remaining. As I said before: my Zoe tends to underestimate the remaining range. Kudos to Renault for educating her on good EV manners.

I plugged her in, presented my card to the charger and it was accepted. My Zoe said on her instrument panel: .’Ongoing checks’. After waiting for a minute or so, the message was still there and nothing happened. No charging. I decided it was no good waiting longer for these ongoing checks. I unplugged the cable and did things in a different order: now I first presented my card and then plugged in. This time it worked promptly and my Zoe sucked in the electrons.

This is how I left her. I felt a bit sorry for leaving her in the blazing sun, but as an EV you don’t get to choose your parking spot. Life is hard for an EV in 2013.Zoe parked for feeding

My Zoe had taken me to a place that is nice for walking and I took a 3 hour walk through the woods. I thought on how cool it would be to see the charging progress on the mobile app, and report my experiences that to you, my dear Internet people. I became a man on a mission.

It didn’t work. During the first 2.5 hours, the app persisted in showing the status of 9:24 when I was still charging at home. But then, I got an update. It now showed the status of my Zoe of 9:50, while it was now half past one. What good are these status reports if they come through with such a delay?

I will report on my experiences with ZE connect in a separate post, but for now I suggest to set your expectations low. Being a web developer myself, I can already tell you ZE connect works like a half finished afterthought. The icons look fresh and nice, but these are all the friendly words I can muster. The rest is buggy, slow, inconsistent, unreliable, vague and user unfriendly. If this is supposed to be the ‘killer app’ for their ZE strategy, I think Renault should consider what the hell they are doing in this business. This is a major component of the ‘ZE experience’, but it seems Renault has not yet realised we are living in 2013. Yes, people do judge them on these kind of things that they, with their 20th century mindset, probably consider a ‘nice to have’. Come on Renault, it is really not that hard or expensive to get this right! I had hoped to show off the app to my collegues with a ‘how cool is that’ attitude. But first I had to wait two bloody weeks for Renault to get it working. Now I finally got it, I realise there is nothing worth showing off. But the ZE connect troubles didn’t affect my Zoe’s appetite for electrons and she awaited me with her belly full and I had a worry free trip home.

These are the scorecards she gave me for today’s driving. First the ones on the way out:

Trip report 1

Energy use 1

And two for the return trip. As you can see, I drove faster than in the morning because then I wasn’t 100% sure I could charge and wanted to arrive with at least 50 km range. That fear, aka ‘range anxiety’, didn’t play a factor in the afternoon. Also, it was hotter so the A/C consumed more. I had the A/C on for most of the time, about 55 minutes I guess. To conserve energy I usually open the windows and set off without A/C to let all the heat out of the car. When entering the motorway, I close the windows and switch on the A/C. To get an idea of the extra consumption for the A/C, the base consumption of my Zoe would normally be 0.3 kWh for an hour long drive without A/C. So the A/C consumed 0.6 kWh for this drive with a blue sky and 25° C. On this particular trip, it took about 5% of range.Trip report 2°Energy use 2

*) GoM: the guess-o-meter or indicator of remaining range.

ZE connect – it’s finally accomplished

When I got home this afternoon, a nice surprise awaited me when trying to login to ZE connect (a daily routine to see if Renault already had made some progress). Lo and behold, ziz iz wuz i zaw:

ZE connect

And this is how the app looks:

ZE connect mobile