The Renault crew celebrate as the lead Zoe completes 1618km in 24 hours, but the reality is that it spent nine of those 24 hours hooked up to a special high-capacity charger.

Renault is claiming a world record for the longest distance travelled in 24 hours by a production electric car - 363 laps of the Aubevoye banked 'speed ring' circuit in Normandy, a distance of 1618km.

That's a 25 percent improvement on the previous mark of 1280km - but there's a catch, a big one.

Here's how they did it:

On Friday, 1 June, two Renault Zoe electric cars began circulating the Aubevoye oval, with 15 drivers taking turns at the wheel, driving and charging as necessary.

Twenty-four hours later the lead car had completed 1618km and the second Zoe 1506 - which was great, as far as it went.

But, even ignoring speed limits, it would not have been possible to repeat that performance on the open road - say, between Cape Town and Johannesburg - because the record attempt relied on a special, high-capacity hook-up called the Caméléon charger.

This piece of technological wizardry not only makes the Zoe (or any other battery car that's got it) compatible with any socket and any power level, it also allows fast-charging at 43kW (that's enough juice to boil 22 household kettles simultaneously!), bringing the Zoe's battery up to 80 percent of full capacity in less than 30 minutes.

The bottom line is that each car was able to run less than an hour at a time.

Then it had to come into the pits and be hooked up to the Caméléon charger for half an hour - a cycle which was repeated 18 times during the record run.

Each car spent nine hours of the 24 standing still, but while it was actually running the lead car averaged a very respectable 108km/h.

But the bottom line remains that, until there is a string of at least 18 Caméléon chargers up and down the N1, it's still going to take you the better part of a week to drive a Zoe from Cape Town to Johannesburg.


Nevertheless, Renault's compact mass-market electric vehicle - with a real-world range of 100-150km and due for release in Europe by the end of this year at prices starting from €15 700 (R165 000) - shows that affordable electric mobility is possible in an urban setting.

It's just not a Grand Tourer. Yet.