As much good as the Electronic Frontier Foundation has done in keeping all things digital open, we're not sure if it needs to be spilling quite as much digital ink over a supposed case of digital rights management (DRM) in an upcoming electric vehicle.

The EV in question is the Renault Zoe, which we have long known would use a battery leasing scheme to keep the cost down. This is news from three years ago, but the EFF is now up in arms, writing:

Video games with online components now routinely reach an end-of-life period where the company providing the authentication decides it's no longer worth it to operate the servers. That raises the frightening possibility of a company like Renault deciding that it's not cost-effective anymore to verify new batteries-and leaving car owners high and dry.

We can't imagine the criticism Renault would generate if it tried a move like this. But still, if you lease something and then stop paying for it, what happens? When the repo men come, is it a rights management issue? No, not really. So, now that it has been revealed that Renault has the ability to "lock down" the battery in the Zoe if you stop paying, is this really an ownership issue? No, not really. It is a good thing that we know as much as possible about how companies control and keep track of our cars, but, like our friends at Green Car Reports, we won't join in calling this DRM in cars.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 15 Comments
      • 1 Month Ago
      YTF would you want to rent the battery for LIFE ??
      Rotation
      • 1 Month Ago
      Excitement over this seems overblown. If I stop paying for cable, my cable company cuts me off, right? So pay your bills. The only real beef I can see is that you don't have the option of buying the pack. If you don't like that, get a different model car. More troublesome with this car is that the chameleon charger, which was supposed to be great because it can charge up to 23kW won't charge at below 3kW. And a regular socket is 2.3kW in most of Europe. So you can't plug in at your friend's house. You can't plug in at a found outlet. You have to find an EVSE to charge from.
        ufgrat
        • 1 Month Ago
        @Rotation
        No, a better analogy would be that you buy a TV, stop paying your cable bill... and your TV stops working. For anything. No video games, blu-ray, Netflix... all because you didn't pay your cable bill. Or, the more likely scenario, your cable company decided that your TV is a burden on their resources, and they don't want to continue providing the infrastructure to support your TV. As a result, the TV you bought is no longer usable by you, or anyone else, so you can't even sell it to someone else. My opinion is if you can't lease the entirety of the vehicle, then you shouldn't lease a component of the vehicle. It would be like buying a car, and leasing the transmission-- it makes selling the car 3-5 years down the road entirely dependent on whether the buyer can negotiate a reasonable lease for the transmission. The likelihood of being able to resell the car will depend on the condition of Renault, not the condition of the car.
        Cavaron
        • 1 Month Ago
        @Rotation
        Third party solutions for the ZOE charging @ 2.3kw on normal socket (with 8, 10 or 16amp) exist. It's basically a cable with a brick-like box on it, like the i-MiEV, Smart or Ampere use.
          Rotation
          • 1 Month Ago
          @Cavaron
          I was told otherwise. If you use a normal EVSE, it will not charge if the EVSE is providing less than 3kW. Although Renault is going to make some kind of portable charger later. I"m not sure how that works.
        Levine Levine
        • 1 Month Ago
        @Rotation
        The fundamental difference is the when the cable cuts your service, you're not in the middle of the Mojave desert or fast flowing Autobahn or on a critical mission like showing up for your important date with Taylor Swift.
        SteveG
        • 1 Month Ago
        @Rotation
        The point is you can't buy it. This means at some point they will not allow you to replace it and you will have to buy a new car. It is DRM just like printers that check crypto chips to prevent refilling ink cartridges and will be used for the same thing. At some point they will force you to buy a new car/printer.
          Rotation
          • 1 Month Ago
          @SteveG
          There are other EVs to buy, even from Renault. If you don't like the pack leasing, buy one of those other vehicles. paulwesterberg: You don't own the pack. You have no need to go get a battery from a 3rd party supplier. And there's nothing that says this is actual DRM or any proprietary APIs that prevent you from using other packs anyway. It's just the car doesn't charge the battery.
          paulwesterberg
          • 1 Month Ago
          @SteveG
          And proprietary APIs mean you can't go get a battery from a 3rd party supplier. Battery rental is dumb. They should just lease the vehicle if the up-front costs are too high.
      Michael Walsh
      • 1 Month Ago
      Like Taylor Swift would ever date anyone who drives a Renault!
      Rotation
      • 1 Month Ago
      Who says I'm not in the middle of the Mojava desert when my cable is cut? And the system used here just disables charging, not driving. It would not affect you on the fast flowing Autobahn, because you can't charge while moving. Also note this vehicle cannot flow particularly fast, it's speed limited.
      DaveMart
      • 1 Month Ago
      The E-Up sounds like a better bet, as you can simply buy the battery, at no huge premium.
      Cavaron
      • 1 Month Ago
      While I don't think they will stop leasing you a battery at some time to brick your car, I see a real danger about upgrading possibilities. Imagine some years in the future a 42kwh battery is (in cost, size and weight) ready to replace the old ZOE battery. But Renault decides: No battery-update for the old ZOE. You want a bigger battery? Then you have to buy ZOE2. And by the way, the rent for the old battery is now 20% more. So you should buy ZOE2 to safe money...
        SteveG
        • 1 Month Ago
        @Cavaron
        Why would they not? Why lease a battery to a customer that has had the same car for 15 years? Why not force him into something newer and more profitable?
      lad
      • 1 Month Ago
      Watched a comic routine the other day where the humorist declared "all people are basically stupid; but, some are even more stupid than others." Seems to me we have a chance to check his theory by counting the "some" who agreed to buy a chassis and then rent electrons from the same company.
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