Home | Clean mobility | Nº 133 – FAIR TRADE?
My Renault ZOE and the RCI Bank

Nº 133 – FAIR TRADE?
My Renault ZOE and the RCI Bank

My Renault ZOE and the RCI Bank

Saturday 3rd September 2022.

In an ideal world, all those aggrieved by a multinational car manufacturer such as Renault or Volkswagen in Portugal, France, Germany, etc. would join forces as a group of claimants – in Europe – and prepare a class action against Renault Bank for instance, with the relevant court in Lisbon, in Paris or Düsseldorf, or against Volkswagen in Braunschweig. In the US this is a simple and efficient way for an aggrieved driver. In Europe we are still waiting for a law of this kind. In Portugal and in all other European states a collective lawsuit is (not yet) possible legally, apart from the option to join a group, a consumer protection agency or an automobile club. A class action without the support of such an organisation, with hundreds or thousands of aggrieved and defrauded customers joining in (see Volkswagen diesel fraud), is not provided for by law. Legally speaking this places the carmaker in a comfortable position. Its legal position is advantageous, as every single „defrauded“ customer has to pay their own lawyer and legal costs, and court cases are always long drawn-out affairs. Which is why ECO123 and Tempo Passa Boa Viagem Lda. have decided not to take RCI Bank and Services to court and not waste any energy on this. We can use our energy in a more constructive and efficient way to achieve a sustainable result. The keyword here is „letting go“. For you can change your car supplier and thereby hit them where it hurts, especially if many others do the same.

Two weeks ago, when ECO 123 published the first instalment of their test drive with the Renault ZOE purchased by our publishing house, readers reacted immediately. One subscriber from Lagos wrote: „So you think you’ve done something good by buying an electric car. Now this car is creating difficulties. And we see that our capitalism is still working the way it has always worked: exploitation and advantages in favour of those already blessed with money. And this is exactly why the money is where it is. Those are dirty earnings! There is no ethics behind it even though it’s being touted as such. As soon as difficulties appear, all the environmental claims and humanity go out the window. This is an important point, in my opinion, why this entire let’s-save-the-environment thing is NOT working. Unfortunately, seeing the greater picture remains hemmed in by monetary considerations with no chance of becoming reality. What is money after all: small printed bits of paper that keep us from dealing with the most important things in life! What is the alternative? The question arises, and loud and clear: what can you do now with your car, already produced, already bought? What options does technology offer us here? Do you have answers to that? A new battery? New technology? Imagine there is something and Renault is simply left out of the loop? Now that would be of interest to people.“ (…)

As long as people insist on their unfettered right to individual and free mobility they will always be „on the road“. For this they need their car (plane, etc.) To try imagining your life without that individual set of wheels would be a true challenge, probably requiring therapeutic supervision, like going cold turkey. The train companies in Europe are their own worst enemy when it comes to drawing up efficient affordable local and long-haul connections. If ECO 123 had the choice today of buying an electric Renault Zoe or a different electric car, ECO 123 would wait for the sharing concept of the new SION from the SonoMotors stable, which will come onto the market next year. And of course we’re waiting for politics to finally overcome the boundaries within Europe. It can’t be right that travelling from Lisbon to Madrid means wasting eleven hours on trains for a 600km stretch, and have to change trains several times. Which century are we living in, and with what kind of mentality?

Renault’s ZOE is not even ten years old, yet in terms of technology already past its prime. Its business model too is rooted in yesterday’s ideas. Things are different with the SION, the electric car built by a small Munich firm by the name of SonoMotors. The SION is slated to be built from autumn 2023 onwards in Finland and will finally come onto the market following a long period of planning. So the SION too is ten years old in a way yet still up to date and selling for a reasonable price. The young company is offering its electric car with solar panels integrated into the bonnet, on the roof, in the doors and in the boot lid, and you can drive it for up to 245km a week without having to charge it at a power point. The idea at the centre of this new policy of a new generation of humans is road capability. And SonoMotors is offering all its customers an app that no other carmaker has, as this concept is not about polluting the world with even more cars but about connecting, about sharing existing electric cars with each other. Which is why SonoMotors is kitting out buses, trucks and pick-ups with their own solar kit.

After all, what counts is how sustainable can a carmaker be, and is allowed to be? The SION features many of these small solar panels and automatically charges itself with solar power too – while driving as well as while being parked in the sun. The SION, which to date is only available as a prototype, may share the power of its full battery in the shape of storage with a neighbouring car or other users with an empty battery. There is also a powerpoint where you can connect a circular saw or similar… The idea here is to place shareconomy at the heart of the concept. This is something engineers overlooked when designing the Renault Zoe as did many other conventional carmakers such as VW and BMW. Or they didn’t think about it when they tried to launch large-scale production of Europe’s first e-cars quickly and hurriedly. The competition doesn’t sleep. And in the case of the ZOE Renault actually forgot the obligatory crash tests. According to a specialised 2020 test analysis the Renault ZOE is the electric car that fares worst in head-on collusions. The driver’s cab, it was reported, was lacking in safety in the case of an accident. However, that wasn’t known before 2020.

A reader based in Augsburg emails ECO 123 from Germany, asking whether there is any compensation in the pipeline for Renault HQ ordering the battery to be blocked.

No, to date there has not been an offer of compensation on the part of Renault nor from RCI Bank, nor of unblocking the battery, and ECO123 will not throw good money after bad and invest energy and money in a lengthy civil case to be debated in a Portuguese court. This kind of case may easily end up drawn out over ten years, including appeals and revisions. The courts are working slowly and are overwhelmed. We will divest ourselves of the Renault ZOE we bought in 2015, probably involving its scrapping and recycling, and from 2023 turn to the new SION from Germany.

You could say that Renault itself has been punished enough, as customers and buyers are fleeing in droves. Globally, over the three years between 2019 and 2021 the Renault Group has sold one million fewer cars per year, falling from 3,753,723 to just under 2.7 million cars in 2021. In the meantime one million (nearly a quarter) of its customers have turned their backs on Renault. As the financial analysis of the French carmaker shows, it is not that interested in customer care. For a carmaker that incurred losses of over eight million euros in 2020, this is about sheer survival. Cash is the only concept, the only value that counts. Which is how in 2021 the result once again shows a profit of 967 million euro: due to cutting expenses, including mass redundancies. This policy will backfire, not in the short term, but for a behemoth with over 135,000 employees, in the medium term such a negative downwards spiral is already a disaster. As things stand, Renault is no longer a major player on global stock exchanges. At some point it will become a target for takeover by another larger carmaker, or go bankrupt. Frustrated customers are not only turning their backs on Renault but are opening their eyes, hearts and wallets, in particular, to more sustainable kinds of mobility and to other car-making companies. To compare, the Volkswagen Group, including the VW, Audi, Seat, Skoda and Porsche brands sold some 8.9 million cars in 2021, and this against the backdrop of exhaust data manipulation and accusations of fraud…

However there are alternatives in place today already. Since 2016 ECO 123 has been following the ideas and actions of three young students who started building a new car and who would like to breathe new and inspired life into the issue of mobility. As co-founder Jona Christians (30) explains in a chat, we cannot accept that every year 100 million new vehicles are produced, even if one day they should all turn into electric cars. SonoMotors does not see its remit in producing and selling as many vehicles are possible, but in offering a system taking you from A to B using the most resource-efficient means of transport. As early as February 2018 SonoMotors declared their intention to compensate all CO2 emissions arising from producing the SION. Which, according to the young company would make the SION the first vehicle in the world produced to a large scale that wants to take this step. Production of the Sono SION was originally meant to start in 2019. Because of the pandemic, amongst other things, production had to be delayed. In April 2022, the stated aim was to start production near Valmet in Finland during the second half of 2023. The SION is slated to cost 29,900 euros, and one of them may be reserved with a minimum downpayment of 500 euros. There are already nearly 20,000 pre-reservations.*


The pinnacle of technological development however would be a keenly priced   solar and battery kit for transforming a car running on fossil fuels into an electric car. Think taking out the petrol or diesel engine of a car, then transforming it into a clean electric car. Did you ever consider turning regular cars into clean electric cars, using the structures already in place in the available independent garages?


In the next edition you can read a story about the re-greening of the world. How do we solve the water problem? How do we get through these hot times? How do we reduce temperatures on our planet? Read all about it on Saturday 17 September in the new ECO123 online with hands-on do-it-yourself ideas for everyone.


*For more information see https://sonomotors.com/


Uwe Heitkamp (62)

trained TV journalist, book author and hobby botanist, father of two grown-up children, knows Portugal for 30 years, founder of ECO123. Translations Dina Adão, John Elliot, Rudolfo Martins, Kathleen Becker



Check Also

Small is beautiful – Part 2

Saturday 2nd December 2023. Picking up the story from last week… Implementing the goals stipulated …