Overview: Renault’s electric vehicles

When talking about electric vehicles, Renault’s key word is ‘affordable’. The Company is clear about its intention to push electric vehicles into the mainstream, and it’s going to start the process soon. Next year, Renault will begin rolling out a range of electric vehicles. Renault’s commercial partner Nissan has a hand in all of Renault’s alternative drivetrains, and it’s likely that the Japanese company will be launching its own vehicles using the same systems as the new Renaults.

So far, we know about the first four of Renault’s new electric generation. Two are electric versions of existing vehicles, two are purpose-designed for electric propulsion. All of them apart from the tiny Twizy will be fitted with the same 20kWh lithium-ion battery and the same synchronous motor, though power outputs will vary. The Fluence and probably the ZoŽ will have 95PS available; the Kangoo will deploy 60PS from the same motor. All three will have access to 226Nm.

The lithium-ion battery pack is currently produced in Japan by Automotive Energy Supply Corporation, a joint venture between Nissan and electronics company NEC. New production facilities are set to open in Flins (France), Sunderland, Cacia (Portugal), Smyrna (Tennessee, USA) and Zama (Japan). Ultimately, Renault-Nissan aims to be able to produce 475,000 Li-ion battery packs per year.

Renault Fluence Z.E.

All of Renault’s electric vehicles will be equipped with a navigation system that includes the locations of charging points. The system can propose alternative routes if the battery’s state of charge is not adequate to reach the programmed destination.

Apart from the electric version of the familiar Kangoo van, concept versions of all of Renault’s upcoming electrics were shown at Frankfurt last autumn.

Twizy Z.E.

Renault’s Twizy Z.E. Concept seats its two occupants one behind the other. The wraparound bodywork was intended to create a safe, reassuring cocoon which offers good protection for the occupants. It might be perfectly safe in practice, but we have our doubts about how reassuring glass doors will be for someone used to sitting in a normal car.

The Twizy’s electric motor delivers 20PS and 70Nm. Renault describes the car’s acceleration urban traffic as comparable to that of a scooter — we’re not sure that this will encorage car-buyers to downsize, though the roof and windows might encourage scooter riders to trade up. Struggling to keep up with urban trfaffic flows can be stressful: perhaps using a more powerful motor, but limiting the maximum speed, might be a preferable option?

Renault Twizy Z.E. Concept.

The lithium-ion battery pack is located beneath the seats — where else? — and is charged using an extensible cable hidden behind the Renault logo at the front. This cable can be plugged into a 230V (10A or 16A) domestic socket, and will fully charge the batteries in three and a half hours.

Renault Twizy Z.E. Concept
Body type 2-door bubble
Seats 2
CdA 0.63M2
Length (mm) 2303
Width (mm) 1132
Height (mm) 1476
Wheelbase (mm) 1695
Front track (mm) 944
Rear track (mm) 944
Unladen mass (kg) 420
Wheel size 13"
Tyres 135/80
Drive Electric motor
Battery pack Li-ion
100% recharge time (230V) 3.5h
Motor power 20PS
Motor torque 70Nm
Range 60 miles
Maximum speed 48mph

We see the Twizy as having huge potential as a comfortable, enclosed alternative to a scooter, though Renault needs to take care with the Twizy’s aesthetics to make sure it doesn’t become a uniquely feminine accessory. There is also the question of stability: we can quite imagine a self-styled consumer watchdog going to great lengths to invert a Twizy, and Renault needs to be aware that such a radical design will come under a great deal of scrutiny.

ZoŽ Z.E. Concept

The ZoŽ is a supermini that aims at providing a good operating range and competitive comfort for its occupants. Renault’s intention is to make this a mainsteam car. Unlike the radical Twizy, which will go into production in a form that’s not too far removed from its show-car origins, last year’s ZoŽ concept car may not be a reliable guide to what the production version will look like.

Not if Renault wants to sell it, anyhow. A supermini aimed at the mass market demands more cautious marketing than a four-wheeled electric scooter that could easily become an overnight style icon.

There are three options for recharging a ZoŽ. A standard charge, using a normal electrical socket, takes between six and eight hours, depending on the supply: a 230V 10A supply will recharge the car is roughly eight hours, while a 16A supply will take around six hours.

Renault ZoŽ Z.E. Concept.

From 2012 or 2013, Renault’s electric cars will be equipped for rapid charging at a commercial charging point. These facilities use a 32A supply at 400V, which should charge the Renault battery pack in 30 minutes.

The third option is called ‘Quick Drop’ — you don’t actually recharge the battery pack at all, but swap batteries at a battery exchange station. This apparently takes three minutes — quite a feat, as the battery pack weighs 250kg.

Power transmission is by means of a single-speed reduction gear, with an inverter for reverse.

Renault ZoŽ Z.E. Concept
Body type 3-door hatchback
Seats 4
CdA 0.25M2
Length (mm) 4100
Width (mm) 1840
Height (mm) 1516
Wheelbase (mm) 2605
Front track (mm) 1626
Rear track (mm) 1626
Unladen mass (kg) 1400
Wheel size 21"
Tyres 185/55
Drive Electric motor
Battery pack Li-ion
100% recharge time (230V) 6-8h
Motor power 95PS
Motor torque 226Nm
Range 100 miles
Maximum speed 88mph

Fluence Z.E.

Renault’s Turkish-built Fluence, a three-box saloon based on the Mťgane platform, is already available in some territories with conventional powertrains. The E.V. derivative will be launched in the first half of 2011. As we have come to expect with electric vehicles, there is a weight penalty over diesel versions: something over 260kg in this case. The drivetrain is the same as that of the smaller ZoŽ.

The Fluence’s rear panelwork has been altered to allow the Z.E. to regain some of the luggage capacity lost to accommodate the battery pack behind the rear seats. At 4748mm in length, the electric Fluence is 130mm longer than the conventional versions. The nose has also been restyled.

Renault Fluence with conventional drivetrain.
Renault Fluence Z.E.
Body type 4-door saloon
Seats 5
CdA 0.72M2
Length (mm) 4748
Width (mm) 1813
Height (mm) 1458
Wheelbase (mm) 2701
Front track (mm) 1537
Rear track (mm) 1555
Unladen mass (kg) 1543
Wheel size 16"
Tyres 205/55
Drive Electric motor
Battery pack Li-ion
100% recharge time (230V) 6-8h
Motor power 95PS
Motor torque 226Nm
Battery 22kWh
Range 100 miles
Maximum speed 85

Kangoo Express Z.E.

The electric Kangoo is set to enter production at Maubeuge in the first half of 2011. It will be built on the same production line as the more conventional versions.

The battery pack is mounted beneath the load floor. The van’s operating range is 100 miles.

Renault Kangoo Z.E..

:More — click here for technology from Renault presented at the Paris motor show, 2010.

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