2030, The looming deadline for all new vehicles sold in the UK to become electric powered. This ruling is encouraging manufacturers to move to EV production, and waving goodbye to some car models all together.
It all seems a little bit doom and gloom, but from the ashes of the demise of some petrol models, we’ve seen the launch of exciting new EV brands, that are set to pioneer the future of car models as we know them.
Enter Zeekr. A company founded two years ago in China and have been rapidly expanding ever since. Since their launch, Zeekr have sold over 100,000 vehicles across China, and are expanding into Europe. Zeekr’s parent company are Geely Automotive Holdings, who also have shares within Volvo, Polestar and Lotus.
Zeekr’s ethos is speed. Not so much the speed of their models, but the speed in which they innovate. In just two years, they’ve launched three models, and plan to launch initially in Amsterdam and Gothenburg in Sweden as part of their launch into Europe.
Gallery: Zeekr 001 first drive review
The first model park of this launch is the Zeekr 001. A shooting-brake style EV with a 100 kwh battery, capable of a range of 385 miles, depending on the trim level you choose.
There are three trim lines available with the 001. Long Range, which gives you the previously mentioned 385 miles of electric range. Performance, which adds a second electric motor, has a 0-62 mph time of 3.8 seconds and a range of 360 miles. Then there is the 001’s highest trim level, Privilege, which offers air suspension, a better sound system and heated and ventilated seats inside the EV. Base prices start from €59,490 for the Long Range, increasing to €67,490 for the Privilege.
Designed in Gothenburg, Sweden, the 001 has an interesting design. At the end of the long bonnet, the 001 has headlights that emit two vertical strips of LED and beneath these are two further headlights. The bonnet has two emphasis lines running along it, really making the front end of the 001 look chunky.
To the side, the Zeekr 001 comes as standard with 21 inch wheels, where as the top line Priviledge range receiving 22 inch wheels. The door handles become flush with the body work when the EV is locked, and the design of the side of the car adds to this, chunky, almost muscular feel to the entire exterior.
The rear of the 001 has an interesting rear end, with two brake lights joined together by a series of LED lights across the tailgate, united in the centre of the car by an illuminated Zeekr badge. The tailgate almost looks like the rear of an estate car.
Step inside of the Zeekr 001, and you are met with a plethora of screens and technology. The driver receives a 14.7 inch dashboard display, and even the rear passengers have an interactive, 5.7 inch screen for air conditioning and heating controls.
The Zeekr 001 really stands out from its rivals when it comes to technology. Whilst it mimics some of its rivals with a button to release the glove compartment, Zeekr have differentiated themselves with their infotainment system. Whilst other manufacturers will use google or android platforms to run their technology, the 15.4 inch touchscreen inside the 001 is created completely in-house by Zeekr in Sweden. Through this screen, users can control anything from the seat positioning, to the direction of the air flow through the air conditioning vents.
It then brings up the argument about touchscreens versus actual buttons to operate certain functions within the car. Like most other manufacturer, Zeekr have gone down the touchscreen route, which arguably is harder to navigate when you are driving, as the driver has to focus more on a screen than on the road in front. The reason behind all manufacturers moving to touchscreen technology is simple. Touchscreens can be changed and updated using a simple bit of code. Physical buttons inside the vehicle on the other hand require wiring, which can’t be updated and are more time consuming. It’s frustrating, but the ease of producing touchscreen technology will unfortunately result in the demise of buttons all together.
Back to the Zeekr 001. Like the exterior, being a mis-match of Shooting Brake, estate car and luxury EV styling, the interior has a unique feature that mixes up the image further. In the front, you have that intuitive touchscreen I mentioned, but the back seat passenger has a series of switches, that controls the position of the front passenger seat, giving the rear more leg room. Talk about ultra luxury!
So what’s it like to drive? Well firstly, it was pleasing to learn that Zeekr hadn’t gone to the effort of injecting amplified sound into the cabin of the 001.
In its highest spec, the 544 bhp of the 001 launches you to 62 mph from a standstill in 3.8 seconds, and despite having this, it didn’t feel like a race car when the driver accelerated hard. Having said that, being the driver you never feel any form of Range anxiety, and the 360 mile range didn’t feel like it was too short for an EV. The 001 has an 22 kW on board charger, meaning it can regenerate its own charge while driving.
Driving an EV on the Swedish country roads felt good. It matched the tranquillity of the country, and the Zeekr was smooth and didn’t feel overly huge on the road. Into Sport mode, like with any combustion-engined car, the throttle response is sharpened, and the suspension felt stiffer, meaning the driver can throw the EV into the corners with more aggression.
The Zeekr 001 is a really exciting prospect to see what new cars be developed under the upcoming EV deadline for Europe. The technology that is packed into the EV really shows the capability that Zeekr have and it’s exciting to know that the company has big plans for new models in Europe. The UK however may have to wait longer, as there is the added complication of converting the EV to RHD.
The 001 had perhaps a little bit of an unknown identity. Is it an estate car? A luxury EV? A shooting brake? A chauffeurs car? Zeekr really have tried to go for a real niche in the market with this EV, and perhaps made the 001s identity a little confusing. That being said, the extra big boot space in the rear, and the rear passenger feature of being able to adjust the front seats are a cool little novelty.
In order to encourage more people to convert to EV. Each vehicle must make it easier for the driver to transition from combustion engine to electric. The 001 does just this, without an obvious huge shift in driving dynamics between the EV and a petrol car, and with the longer range, the driver won’t need to worry too much about always running out of battery, either. Zeekr have done a good job of ensuring this with the 001, and if this is a tease of what is to come from this brand, then we can be excited for what the future holds.