Renault Master Z.E. van review
The Renault Master Z.E. was the first large electric van to go on sale, ahead of rivals such as the Volkswagen e-Crafter and Mercedes eSprinter. It’s designed to meet a specific brief for companies that want a zero-emissions vehicle to help them continue to make deliveries in areas where emissions restrictions are being introduced – an area also being targeted by the LDV EV80. While that sounds like a niche within a niche, the Master Z.E. fills it perfectly, with a big cargo volume and a decent range that means it’s perfect for these so-called ‘last-mile’ deliveries.
The Master Z.E. is based on the standard Renault Master diesel van, but has the running gear from the smaller Kangoo Z.E. fitted. Why did Renault choose the Master over the mid-sized Trafic to make its zero-emissions van? Well, its research revealed customers for zero-emissions vans wanted the maximum cargo volume available, so it made sense to go with the Master, as it’s the biggest van in the range, and these last-mile delivery firms tend to average 60-70 miles per day, which is an achievable figure in the Master Z.E.
Power comes from Renault’s R75 electric motor, which is also used in the ZOE, while the 33kWh battery is from that car, too. These are mounted where the diesel Master’s engine and gearbox would be, so there’s no compromise to the Z.E. version’s load area, with 8-19 cubic metres of space available, depending on which body style you go for.
As the running gear is the same as you’ll find in a Kangoo Z.E., it’s no surprise that the larger and heavier Master Z.E. can’t match it for driving range. Renault quotes an official range of 124 miles from a full charge, but the company is realistic about how far you’ll go in real life. Renault expects the Master to have an everyday driving range of 75 miles, which it believes is enough to cover a day of deliveries.
Of course, this will be compromised by the van’s payload, the weather (cold temperatures affect the battery, so 50 miles is more realistic in winter) and your driving style, but it's a figure to aim for if you’re working out daily mileage to see if an electric van will suit.
Charging is done using a standard Type 2 cable, and Renault claims that a full charge from flat can take six hours when using a wallbox. From the mains, it takes far longer, at 17 hours. When you buy the Master Z.E., Renault will consult with you about charging options, and it’s best to have a high-voltage wallbox available where the van is most likely to be parked overnight.
Master Z.E. buyers have a choice of panel van, platform cab and chassis cab formats, with three lengths (L1, L2, L3), two heights (H1, H2) and a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of 3.1 or 3.5 tons, allowing a payload of up to 1,700kg of payload (before conversion). The platform cabs can have bespoke bodywork added from recommended conversion companies.
On the road, the Master Z.E. has enough grunt to keep pace with traffic, but it’s hardly what you’d call fast. There’s plenty of torque to make light work of a heavy payload (the maximum offered is just under 1.2 tonnes), although if you do carry a big load on board, expect the driving range to reduce.
There’s an Eco button on the dash that helps preserve the Master Z.E.’s range by cutting throttle response and limiting top speed to 50mph (down from 68mph), but this is as frustrating as it is useful, as it blunts the van’s performance. Other than that, driving the Master Z.E. is just like driving the diesel version. In fact, it’s slightly better, because it’s quiet, refined and the standard automatic gearbox takes the strain out of the experience.
Overall, the Renault Master Z.E. is a niche electric vehicle that'll cater to a very specific sector of the market. At least it has beaten its rivals to the punch, but unless you’re running a last-mile delivery company making multiple drops in a busy urban areas, it’s unlikely to cater for your needs. The relatively short range means it’s not going to venture much further than city streets. But if that’s where you’re going to use it, the Master Z.E. makes a lot of sense. It has masses of cargo space, is easy to drive and has the same conversion options available as the diesel Master. It’s a great showcase for the future of urban deliveries that’s available to buy today.
For a more detailed look at the Renault Master Z.E., read on for the rest of our in-depth review...