Ioanna is a writer at TNW. She covers the full spectrum of the European tech ecosystem, with a particular interest in startups, sustainabili Ioanna is a writer at TNW. She covers the full spectrum of the European tech ecosystem, with a particular interest in startups, sustainability, green tech, AI, and EU policy. With a background in the humanities, she has a soft spot for social impact-enabling technologies.
The Renault Zoe may have been Europe’s fourth best-selling EV just a few months ago, but it has seriously failed the latest crash tests by the European New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP).
In fact, the NCAP ‘awarded’ the 2021 Renault Zoe with zero stars for safety, ironically ruining Renault Laguna’s legacy — the first car to ever receive a five-star rating.
What went wrong, Renault?
Since its launch in 2013, the Zoe held a five-star safety rating, so this bids the question: what has changed now?
According to Michiel van Ratingen, Secretary General of Euro NCAP, the vehicle’s deficiencies are attributed to a “facelift” introduced in 2020.
The new Zoe received several battery improvements but no added safety. “On the contrary, the seat-mounted side airbag which previously protected head and thorax has been replaced by a less effective thorax-only airbag, representing a degradation in occupant protection,” van Ratingen explains.
The Zoe was also penalized for not having active safety features like automated emergency braking and lane departure warning as standard.
Its poor protection in crashes overall, its poor vulnerable road user protection, and the lack of meaningful crash avoidance technology, are the reasons why it gets disqualified for any stars, van Ratingen concludes.
In which tests did the Zoe fail?
First up, the EV performed poorly in the frontal offset crash test, offering, according to the NCAP, “weak protection” to the driver’s chest area and to the children’s neck in the backseat.
The Zoe performed even worse in the side pole test, which simulates hitting a tree or lamppost side-on. In fact, the pole struck the test dummy’s head.
You can watch parts of the crash test in the following video — I warn you, it’s pretty scary.
Prioritizing lower vehicle cost over safety?
Call me suspicious, but the 2021 Dacia Spring (yes, Dacia is Renault’s sub-brand) has also come up short in NCAP’s crash test, scoring an almost equally bad one-star safety rating.
And I’m not the only one connecting the dots. Van Ratingen remarks:
Renault was once synonymous with safety. But these disappointing results for the ZOE and the Dacia Spring show that safety has now become collateral damage in the group’s transition to electric cars.
It is cynical to offer the consumer an affordable green car if it comes at the price of higher injury risk in the event of an accident.
Well, that’s quite a blow and interestingly Renault did provide comments on the Zoe’s poor rating. The automaker said the following to Autocar:
Renault takes note of the results published by EuroNCAP following specific tests on Zoe E-Tech Electric according to its new protocol implemented in 2020.
Renault reaffirms that Zoe E-Tech Electric is a safe vehicle, which complies with all regulatory safety standards. These standards are constantly evolving and are becoming more stringent in all domains, especially in safety. Renault therefore continually improves its offer in order to comply with the regulations applicable where its vehicles are sold.
There’s one point on which I agree with Renault. Every few years the NCAP updates its crash tests employing new technologies and raising the safety standards.
For instance, if an X model passes a test with flying colors in 2013, it might very well fail to succeed in improved tests some years later. But this is not the case here.
We’re talking about conscious equipment alterations and the lack of basic features, vital for safety during the event of accident.
So even if the NCAP crash test process isn’t mandatory for a vehicle’s safety certification (manufacturers voluntarily test their cars or the test body itself buys vehicles to test), it’s still a clear indication of the Zoe’s shortcomings.
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