Renault Master Z.E. van review

The Renault Master Z.E. is the biggest electric van currently on sale, and is designed for urban multi-drop deliveries

£46,400 - £48,800
Electric

Pros

  • Massive cargo volume
  • Good payload
  • Easy to drive

Cons

  • High list price
  • Short trips only
  • Bulky for urban driving

The Renault Master Z.E. is the first large electric van to go on sale, ahead of forthcoming rivals such as the Volkswagen e-Crafter and Mercedes e-Sprinter, which are due in 2019. 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. 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 it has the running gear from the smaller Kangoo Z.E. fitted instead. Why did Renault choose the Master over the mid-sized Trafic to make its zero-emissions van? Well, its research revealed that customers wanting a zero-emissions van 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 and Kangoo electric models, while the 33kWh battery is the same, 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 weather affects energy storage in the battery, so 50 miles is more realistic) and your driving style, but is a figure to aim for if you’re working out your daily mileage to see if an electric van will fit into your business.

Charging is via a standard Type 2 cable, and Renault claims that a full charge from flat can take six hours when using a 7kW 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.

As the Master Z.E. is based on the diesel Master, it’s available in the same variety of body styles. There are four panel vans (three lengths in low and medium roof heights), while two lengths of platform cab are also available, although no passenger carrying versions are currently available. 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 mitigate 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.