World Green Car Finalists Announced: Tesla Model S vs Renault Zoe

MAR 8 2013 BY JAY COLE 8

The 2013 World Green Car Of The Year Award Is Really A Two Vehicle Race

The 2013 World Green Car Of The Year Award Is Really A Two Vehicle Race

The three finalists for World Green Car Of The Year have been announced in Geneva.  And for the first time since the Model S was introduced, Tesla might not win this one.

2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

The three finalists are:

Tesla Model S – available in 3 range levels in the US (40 kWh, 60 kWh and 85kWh) and 2 in Europe (no 40 kWh version), the Tesla can drive up to 265 miles on a charge; all the while making the driver not look like the eco-green nerd we know he (or she) is.


2013 Renault Zoe

2013 Renault Zoe

Renault Zoe – the first real purpose built electric vehicle for Europe, and the car that we all secretly wish the Nissan LEAF would have been in the US.

How good is the Zoe?  Renault actually delayed the Zoe’s launch  for fear it would steal sales from the Euro-release of the gas powered Clio.  The Zoe has a 130 mile electric range (on the NEDC cycle, which translates to a little less than 95 miles here), variable “Chameleon” charging that lets the car accept whatever charge is available (30 mins to 9 hours), good handling and styling.  And all that from €15,700 after subsidy (about $20,000 USD) +  €79/month battery hire.


2014 Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid

2014 Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid


Rounding out the 3 finalists is the  Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid, which is a fine, yet expensive, plug-in hybrid that is simply not going to win…so we aren’t going to spend much effort talking about it. We will note the Volvo  can travel up to 30 miles on just electricity, and it probably does really well in crash tests  (you can however read all about it here if you care to).



So, what gives us the impression that the Tesla Model S has a slight chance to actually not win an award that it is nominated for?

The Renault Zoe is a beast.  It has most everything your typical all-electric vehicle buyer wants, in an appealing package;  at an even more appealling price.   A price so low that it gives value over its gas counterparts from the moment you drive it off the lot (especially with $8.00/gallon gas), a notion not seen in the US.

And affordability is something Tesla really can’t compete on…especially considering it’s European pricing, where the top of the line, 85 kWh Model S starts around  €83,000 ($108, 000 USD.  As mentioned previously, there is no 40kWh version of the Model S outside North America, instead you find the likes of the 60 kWh electric sedan starting around €70,000 ($91,000 USD). 

The Tesla Model S has it over the Renault Zoe in almost every category, but it simply is not 4-5 times better in our opinion.  You have to consider the value per dollar/price achievement that has occured with the Zoe in Europe.

The Zoe sells for €15,700 (with €79/month battery lease, that also insures the vehicles ability to function as advertised long term), while ‘competitors’ such as the Opel Ampera sit at €37,900.  Even Renault’s business partner Nissan looks fairly weak with the 75 mile LEAF starting at €25,900.

While Renault has just started making deliveries of its Zoe in the last few weeks to the general population, we are already marking it down as the best selling plug-in for Europe for 2013.   To illustrate the French EV’s dominance, in just a few selling days in February, Renault sold more Zoes than all the other EVs combined for the month in France, with 440 sales.

Ryoji Yamada, from the event’sponsor Bridgestone, said of the awards, “The environment is everyone’s responsibility and throughout our global family of companies, we take this responsibility very seriously.”

Also giving the Renault Zoe some extra credit, is a home-field advantage of sorts, as the award is voted on by an “international” cast of 66 automotive journalists, which rarely show love for the US nameplates.

Still, the Tesla Model S is premium name in the EV business right now, and its award dominance is unmatched.

Past Winners:

  • 2012Mercedes S 250 CDI Blue EFFICIENCY over the  Ford Focus Electric and Peugeot 3008 Hybrid.
  • 2011 Chevrolet Volt over the BMW 320d EfficientDynamics and the Nissan LEAF
  • 2010 – Volkswagen BlueMotion
  • 2009 – Honda FCX Clarity
  • 2008 – BMW 118d
  • 2007 – Mercedes-Benz E320 Bluetec
  • 2006 – Honda Civic Hybrid

The winner will be announced at the NY Auto Show on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

Categories: General, Renault, Tesla, Volvo


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8 Comments on "World Green Car Finalists Announced: Tesla Model S vs Renault Zoe"

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Jay, great article. About the EPA estimate for the Zoe: I believe it’s closer to 90 miles than 95 miles. Why?

The 2011/2012 LEAF had a NEDC rating of 109 miles. This figure went up to 124 miles, or about 14%, in 2013. We know that the EPA rating on a full charge increased from 73 to 84 miles in the US, which corresponds to 15% year-over-year.

Since incremental changes in NEDC translate almost 1:1 to EPA rating changes, this implies that we can take 84 miles from the 2013 LEAF, and multiply by 1.04. Note that Zoe’s NEDC range is 4% higher than 2013 LEAF (130 vs 124 miles). The resulting EPA estimate is about 90 miles for the Zoe on a full charge.

You very well may be right.

Honestly, (as I am a nitpicker myself), and I struggle a bit with estimating the range on the Zoe, and have flip-flopped between 90 and 95 miles frequently.

I used to calculate it at about 90, then ended up grossing it up when Renault did some ‘real world’ calculations themselves which mirrors some US numbers and came up with 62 miles in the cold and 93 miles in temperate weather.

There is some skew variance on the range in the NEDC to EPA standard based on the efficiency of the cars at higher speed,but who knows. It could be 85, we will never know as we will never see it in the US.

…maybe we could get Tony Williams to go over to Europe with a new 2013 and do a range comparison test for us. Everyone loves those articles, (=

But for me, the Zoe is too small so I’m going to pick the Tesla or the Volvo

A Zoe at $20k and 90 mile range is approaching what some see as the sweet spot. Maybe just a little more range is needed. But the battery lease is a big downer. But of everything out there, it seems to be the most promising for the future of EV transportation.
Hey, where’s all the BEV vs. EREV controversy??

I’m a fan of the Zoe as an EV bull’s-eye for the masses, for all the reasons mentioned, and hope the Zoe turns out to be the 2014 LEAF here in the US. But Tesla has thousands of cars on the road and months of scrutiny. Zoe choice could be valid, but seems premature. Where are the glowing owner and automotive journalist testimonials to back up this promise as scrupulously vetted reality? When will John Broder drive it?

Both are important, but if it was me to decide i would go for the Tesla, as the power/range is simply unbeatable and a leap forward for the industry.

ps – Why oh why didn’t the Leaf was born as a Zoe instead of a frogfaced car?

I was skeptical at first about the leased battery. I figured it would be almost twice the listed $103/mth. This arrangement also nullifies worries about battery degradation as the new lease would necessarily be for a new (or re-conditioned as new) battery.

I was a big fan of the Zoe until they recently announced that the car would not be delivered with the “occasional recharge cord”, which can be plugged in anywhere (standard plug). Actually in the battery lease contract, you have to agree to never plug the car into anything except an official Renault wallbox, which means you can only plug in at home (after paying extra for the wallbox).
The concept of every home in the world becoming a gas station (for electric cars) goes out of the window because of this “hidden” obligation. Many potential early adopters have relinquished their reservation because of it.
I’d go with Tesla or the Leaf anytime: at least I can plug them in where I want…