Renault's range of battery-powered light commercials - due to hit the streets of Europe in the third quarter of 2011 - has already been extended with the addition of a long-wheelbase Kangoo van, which will be seen in public for the first time at Geneva motor show.
Dubbed Maxi ZE (zero emission), it's 40cm longer than the standard version, which increases its load bay length to 2.93m and volume by more than a cubic metre to 4.63 cubic metres.
It'll also be available either as a two-seat van or as a five-seat crew bus with a 60/40-split folding rear bench-seat. This modular van can switch to any one of four different interior layouts depending on the number of passengers - or the rear seat can fold into the floor to produce a completely flat deck and free up almost 3.4 cubic metres of carrying space.
More importantly, the Kangoo Van Maxi ZE is still only 1.82m tall, which means it can get into underground car parks to deliver people and goods off the street.
It has a 44kW electric motor fed by a 22kWh lithium-ion battery under the floor; Renault quotes a range of 170km but says that can vary one way or the other "depending on type of road, temperature, terrain and driving style".
Peak torque of 226Nm is available at zero revs, giving responsive off-the-line acceleration, while the silent ride and absence of gearshifts ensure a relaxed, comfortable working environment.
The fascia has been revised to incorporate a new MMI (man-machine interface) which displays the battery's level of charge and the van's remaining range in kilometres. An eco-driving mode and the ability to pre-heat the vehicle while the battery is being charged also help maximise range.
Battery Kangoos will be built at Renault's Maubeuge Carrosserie Automobile plant in France, on the same production lines as the rest of the Kangoo van range.
Pricing in Europe will start at €21 200 (R207 500) for the two-seat version and €22 000 (R215 500) for the five-seat crew van - but this is where it starts getting weird. That doesn't include the battery.
Renault says it will retain ownership of the batteries so it can quickly swop them round in case of battery failure. On top of paying for the van, customers will have to take out a subscription (Renault's word, not ours) for the battery, starting from €72 (R705) a month for a four-year/60 000km contract.
Even then, Renault says the cost of running a Kangoo ZE, including subscription, maintenance and "refuelling" at about €1.5 (R14.50) for a full charge, will be about the same as a diesel Kangoo if it does less than 15 000km a year - and cheaper if it does more.
Renault boasts that by the end of 2011 the Kangoo will offer the most comprehensive range of light commercials on the market, with seven models in three lengths and three energy types - petrol, diesel or battery.