Renault’s forthcoming range of electric vehicles has been in the news for the better part of a year. It’s not just because a major manufacturer is launching several electrically-powered vehicles relatively soon — though you won’t be able to take delivery of an electric Renault passenger car for well over a year — but also because the cars have taken shape in front of our eyes, with prototypes turning into production models and technical details finalised.
Here is a quick reminder of what Renault will be selling. Each electrically-powered model is designated ‘Z.E.’ for ‘zero emissions’, though we’re none too fond of this phrase.
Fluence: This Turkish-built three-box saloon is based on Mégane running-gear and is normally powered by Renault’s diesel and petrol engines. The Z.E. version is visually different from its internally-combusted siblings: partly (at the front) for marketing reasons, and partly (at the rear) to maintain boost-space while accommodating the bulky battery-pack bhind the rear seat. The Fluence Z.E. will be launched in Britain in 2012.
Kangoo van: British buyers can already order one, but deliveries won’t begin until late next year. Like the Fluence, the electric Kangoo is based on a conventionally-powered vehicle; the battery-pack is hidden under the load-floor, and there are few aesthetic differences.
Twizy: New from the ground up, this low-powered two-sweater urban runabout will be available from early 2012.
Zoe: Available from mid-2012, the Zoe is a small hatchback, breaking no new ground in its format but designed from the outset for electric power.
In an attempt to make its electric vehicles affordable, Renault has excluded the (very high) cost of the vehicle’s battery from the purchase price. The battery-pack is leased according to a separate agreement. Renault is also offering a ‘one-stop shop’ for insurance and for obtaining a wall-box battery-charging station for the owner’s home.
The result is that if you are able to obtain a government grant for buying the vehicle, its price (excluding the battery) should be roughly the same as an equivalent diesel-engined model. In the case of the Fluence Z.E., the mainland European price will be around €26,000 (depending on local VAT rates). In France, after deducting the government’s €5000 incentive, the purchase price works out to be €21,300 inclusive of local VAT.
British prices for Renault Kangoo van Z.E. will start from £16,990, excluding VAT and the separate cost of leasing the battery-pack. In mainland Europe, battery lease for a Fluence Z.E. is €79 per month including VAT assuming the car does not exceed 10,000km a year. British customers for the Kangoo van will pay £59 per month for a four-year, 9000 miles per annum agreement.
As we have described elsewhere on these pages, there are three methods for keeping a Renault E.V. charged.
Standard charge: This will be the most common method of charging. The vehicle would be charged at home or at a publically-accessible charging point. A full charge will take between 3.5 and eight hours, depending on model — Twizy, 3.5 hours; Kangoo Z.E., Zoe and Fluence between six and eight hours). For charging at home there are two methods: either a connection via a wall-box (this protects the domestic circuit) or EVSE (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment). The recommended option is the wall-box, with the advantages of ergonomics, speed, load optimisation and protection of both the domestic circuit and the vehicle.
Fast charge: In an emergency, when the customer needs to charge the battery quickly, they can connect via a public fast charge point. This will give 37 miles range in less than 10 minutes or 80 per cent. battery capacity in 30 minutes. This system will be will be available on the Zoe and, at a later date, on the Fluence Z.E. and Kangoo Van Z.E.
Quickdrop battery exchange stations: In some countries, Quickdrop battery exchange stations will be available. The customer will be able to change his depeleted battery for a fully-charged battery, a process that Renault says takes only three minutes. This scheme is currently planned in Israel and Denmark, in partnership with Better Place. Both Zoe and Fluence are equipped to operate with Quickdrop, where available.
Drivers’ main concern when it comes to electric vehicles is undoubtedly range. When charging infrastructure is well developed, this worry will disappear; at present, reassuring potential buyers that driving an electric car will not be a fraught experience is one of Renault’s chief concerns. The instrument displays fitted to the Company’s E.V.s give information about about the state of charge of their battery and the estimated remaining range. There is also an econometer to inform the driver about his real-time energy consumption by means of a simple colour-coding system: light blue represents ‘normal’ vehicle use, dark blue for optimal use and red to warn of excessive energy consumption. Of course, this information in itself does not provide charging stations.
As a further aid, Renault fits the Carminat TomTom smart navigation system to its electric passenger cars. This takes range-related data into account, and permanently displays the location of the nearest Quickdrop or battery charging station.
As you would expect, kinetic energy capture is a feature of the Renault Z.E.s.
Ahead of the Renault Z.E. line-up’s release from the middle of 2011, a fleet of 600 prototype vehicles will be on the road in the hands of corporate customers. This real-life testing will take place in 10 countries, and the vehicles are expected to clock up several hundred thousand kilometres in total.
Each local test fleet will be tasked with a number of objectives aimed at evaluating both the vehicles and their ‘eco-system’:
The testing of the vehicles in real-world conditions by demanding fleet operators and collecting their observations.
An evaluation of how customers use their vehicles in real-world situations.
An appraisal of the technical solutions used for charging batteries — standard charge, fast charge stations, usage, frequency of charging, duration of each charge and so on.
An evaluation of the economic models associated with electric vehicles.
The operation will permit Renault and its partners to evaluate technical solutions and economic models in real-world situations. This will help the companies prepare for the large-scale appearance of electric vehicles on the roads.
Renault’s Kangoo Van Z.E. is a compact light commercial vehicle intended for use mainly in built-up areas and suburbs. Its carrying capacity — 3 or 3.5m³ depending on the version — is identical to that of the conventionally-powered version.
The Kangoo’s battery-pack is the 22kWh lithium-ion unit used in other Renault E.V.s, charged by way of a socket behind a flap next to the offside headlamp. Using an ordinary mains supply (230V 16A), the battery can be charged completely in between six and eight hours; unfortunately, and probably for cost reasons, a fast-charging facility is not available. The NEDC combined cycle operating range is 100 miles. The Kangoo can be pre-heated or pre-cooled while the battery is being charged.
The electric version of the Kangoo will be manufactured alongside conventional versions at Renault’s MCA de Maubeuge plant in France.
The Renault Fluence Z.E. is due to go on sale in Europe from mid-2011, and will be the market’s first mass-produced electric saloon car. Based on the conventionally-powered version, with changes to the rear structure, the passenger space is unaffected by the new drivetrain. The boot has been extended to maintain space which would otherwise be lost through the mounting of the battery-pack behind the rear seats.
The NEDC combined cycle operating range of the Fluence Z.E. is 100 miles. Like the Kangoo, the Fluence can be pre-heated or pre-cooled when the battery is being charged.
Renault Fluence Z.E.
The Fluence’s electric traction motor delivers 95PS and 226Nm. Maximum speed has been limited to 84mph. The Fluence shares the Kangoo’s 22kWh lithium-ion battery, and two charging options are offered — a standard charge, or Quickdrop.
Like the Kangoo Z.E., the electric Fluence will be produced alongside its conventionally-powered brethren; in this case, in Bursa, Turkey.
Renault unveiled the definitive version of the Twizy at the Paris show. It is effectively a four-wheeled electric scooter, with the passenger sitting behind the driver. The occupants are not completely sheltered from the elements, as there are no upper door windows. Performance is said to be similar to that of a scooter, the Twizy’s motor delivering peak outputs of 20PS and 57Nm; the maximum continuous output is an even more modest 10PS. Kerb mass is 450kg, of which 100kg is the battery.
A Twizy should be capable of a 60-mile range. It is recharged using an extendable spiral cable stored beneath a flap at the front of the vehicle; a domestic supply or roadside charger can be used, and a charging time of 3.5 hours is quoted.
Interior stowage space is inevitably limited: there is a compartment beneath the passenger seat, and cubbies in the dash.
The Twizy will be the third model in the Renault Z.E. electric vehicle range to be introduced, scheduled for release in the U.K. in early 2012. It is actually possible to pre-order one now, though we would recommend that you try it out first. The Twizy will be manufactured in Valladolid, Spain.
In Renault’s words, the Zoe Preview shown in Paris ‘provides a realistic glimpse of the forthcoming mass-market Renault electric car of the same name.’ It was a near-definitive representation — 90 per cent., says Renault — of the vehicle that will be manufactured at Flins and launched in 2012.
The Zoe is a five-door Clio-sized hatchback designed from the outset for electric power. A very respectable drag coefficient of Cd 0.29 is quoted.
In its final form the Zoe will incorporate some noteworthy features, including a toxicity sensor in the ventilation system that automatically shuts the vents, and — remarkably — light therapy by way of the frequency of light emitted by the central display screen. If this is 6500K daylight, it could have a significant effect on the driver’s mood and level of alertness — we await further details. As well as these features, there’s also automatic humidity level adjustment for the climate control and an active relaxing or stimulating scent diffuser.
All three of Renault’s charging systems are available on the Zoe: standard, fast or Quickdrop. Unique Michelin 205/45x19" low rolling-resistance tyres are used.
Renault’s Latitude is not an electric vehicle but a mildly facelifted version of the Renault-Samsung SM5, designed jointly in France and Korea. It is manufactured at Renault-Samsung Motors’ Busan plant in Korea, which manufactures a number of models for the local market as well as the Nissan Koleos. All diesel engines and manual gearboxes used in the Latitude are made at Renault’s Cléon plant in France.
The recent Paris motor show was the Latitude’s first public airing in Europe; it will go on sale on the mainland early next year, though it might not come to Britain at all.
The Latitude is physically larger than the Laguna, but it offers little or no more room inside. It’s quite a different car, designed for luxury and not with the enthusiastic driver in mind.
Elbow room: front — rear
For European markets, one petrol and three diesel engines — including the new V6 dCi — will be offered; all will be available with either a manual six-speed gearbox or six-speed automatic transmission.
The two-litre M4R petrol engine will run on E85 ethanol blend and delivers 140PS at 6000rpm. Torque of 195Nm is available at 3750rpm.
Renault-Samsung SM5, Busan plant, Korea. The SM5 is the basis for the Latitude.
The M9R two-litre dCi can be specified in either of two trims, 150PS and 175PS. The standard transmission is the PK4 six-speed manual unit. Torque outputs are 340Nm and 380Nm respectively at 2000rpm. The six-speed AJ0 automatic gearbox will be available in combination with the 175PS engine.
It will also be possible to order a Latitude with Renault’s new V6 diesel, which is ultimately destined for various Renault and Nissan models. The V6 dCi (V9X) offers 240PS at 3750rpm with 450Nm at 1500rpm.
The Latitude uses the Laguna’s front suspension, while the multi-link set-up at the rear is derived from a Nissan design.
New 1.6-litre dCi engine
Renault’s new 1598cc R9M power-unit, rated at 130PS, will ultimately supplant the familiar 1870cc F9Q engine with the same headline output. Despite the drop in swept volume, the new engine delivers significantly more torque: 320Nm at 1750rpm against the old unit’s 300Nm at the same crankshaft speed.
The 1.6 dCi’s first public outing will be in the spring, fitted to various models of the Mégane family. Renault quotes a combined fuel economy figure of 62.7mpg for a Grand Scénic fitted with the new 1.6 dCi 130; this equates to a CO2 yield of 119g/km. Features of interest include a stop-start system, low pressure EGR, energy management — intelligent control of the alternator, along with kinetic energy capture — and variable swirl.
Although the newcomer may be a substantial step forward in many respects, at its core it is actually a short-stroke version of the 1.9 unit: the bore remains at 80.0mm, the stroke drops from 93.0mm to 79.5mm. A fair number of internal components were redesigned, and the deployment of new ancillary technologies has transformed the engine.
Renault estimates that downsizing alone — ignoring the various external technologies we’ve alluded to — has enabled a fuel saving of around six per cent. over the F9Q.
Low pressure EGR
Renault will be the first volume manufacturer to introduce this technology on a wide scale in Europe. Low pressure EGR involves uprating the exhaust recirculation rate while at the same time containing intake pressure and the temperature of the turbocharger. The system operates by recovering the exhaust gases further downstream, once they have been through the turbine and particulate filter. They are then cooled in a low pressure intercooler before being recirculated upstream of the turbocharger mixed with air. They are then burned a second time in the combustion chamber. Emissions of nitrogen oxides are reduced more efficiently in this way than is the case with a high pressure EGR, and engine efficiency is improved. The combustion is of a higher quality, and CO2 emissions are reduced. We have included a graphic showing how the system works at the bottom of the page.
This technology actively controls intake air speeds and, as a result and the gas-flow dynamics inside the combustion chamber. An early example of this — if not the first example — was Toyota’s 4A-GE petrol engine, introduced in 1983. Each of its intake valves — two per cylinder — was fed by a separate intake pipe; at low engine speeds, a butterfly valve closed off one of each pair. This resulted in relatively high mixture speeds and thus decent torque at low revs. At around 4100rpm the butterflies opened, allowing the engine to make full use of its considerable intake valve area for good top-end power. The transition between operating modes was not particularly subtle, but the idea was good, and it meant that an engine with very energetic high-rev performance could be agreeable to drive at more moderate speeds. Renault has essentially done the same thing — albeit with a diesel power-unit — using two separate manifolds. Again, we have included a graphic of the system at the bottom of the page.
A variable displacement oil pump allows oil flow to be adjusted as a function of the engine’s needs in order to minimise the amount of energy required to drive the pump.
Thermal management increases the speed at which the engine reaches its working temperature. This reduces fuel consumption and emissions, which suffer as a result of oil’s increased viscosity and poor combustion in cold cylinders.
Energy Smart Management is Renault’s name for kinetic energy capture on overrun and intelligent control of the alternator, taking the unit off-load when the engine is working.
Renault estimates that, in the case of the Grand Scénic, the CO2 savings achieved by the various technologies we have described (compared with the 1.9 dCi engine) are as follows:
Estimated saving (per cent.)
Low pressure EGR
Variable displacement oil pump
The 1.6 dCi 130 engine currently complies with Euro 5 emissions legislation and is ready for Euro 6. It was developed within the framework of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, which means this engine will also power Nissan models. The unit is also covered by the strategic cooperation agreement signed by the Alliance and Daimler.
This engine will be manufactured in France at Renault’s Cléon plant which also produces the V6 dCi, the 2.0 dCi, and the new 2.3 dCi which powers Renault Master and its clones.
Technical specification Renault R9M 1.6 dCi 130
M6 Type ND4
The 1.6 dCi uses seven-hole solenoid-operated injectors, with up to six injection pulses per cycle. The system is supplied by Delphi and can deliver injection pressures up to 200MPa.
EDC dual-clutch transmission
Renault’s six-speed automatic transmission — known as EDC, for Efficient Dual Clutch — uses dry clutches combined with electric actuators. These are noth unusual features, and inthe latter case possibly unique. Dry clutches were deployed to avoid the slight viscous drag associated with wet clutches, and electric actuators were also used because of their enery-efficiency.
This EDC has been available on Mégane dCi 110 FAP models since spring 2010.