PARIS -- Ahead of an expected boom in electric vehicles in Europe, Renault has upgraded its Zoe small hatchback with a more powerful motor, larger battery, expanded charging options and a redesigned interior.
The Zoe has largely had the small electric vehicle segment to itself since it was introduced in 2012, and sales have risen every year but it still remains a niche vehicle, with just under 40,000 sold last year, almost all in Europe.
But new competitors are poised to enter the market as automakers turn to electric vehicles to help them meet the European Union's 2021 CO2 emissions standards.
The Tesla Model 3 leads in overall European full-electric vehicle sales through the end of the first quarter, with more than 19,000 registrations according to the European Alternative Fuels Observatory, an EU funded database.
The Zoe is second, with 11,000, followed by the Nissan Leaf at around 10,000 and the BMW i3 at 8,000. Other electric vehicles notching significant sales include the Volkswagen e-Golf, the Hyundai Kona, the Jaguar i-Pace, the Hyundai Ionic and the Kia Niro.
The Zoe will gain two direct competitors in the small-hatchback segment when PSA Group introduces electric versions of the new generation Opel Corsa and Peugeot 208 subcompacts in early 2020. Volkswagen will kick off its line of ID electric models with the ID3 compact next year.
Nonetheless, Renault has not opted for an all-new Zoe. Instead, this year it upgraded the battery and motor, added a more-versatile charging plug, revamped the dashboard and console, and restyled the front and rear of the car.
The Zoe will continue to be built at Renault's factory in Flins, France, which has been configured to double Zoe capacity as part of a 1-billion-euro investment in electric vehicles last year.
Zoe sales are up 43 percent through April compared with the same period in 2018, which Renault executives partly attribute to the overall growth in the electric vehicle market.