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Renault EVs draw closer

Current thinking: The Renault Twizy concept might yet make it into production.

French maker announces production details for its first wave of electric vehicles

9 Nov 2009

RENAULT has moved one step closer to electric vehicle production by confirming the factories that will manufacture the French car-maker’s first EVs within two years.

Like its sister brand Nissan, Renault has committed to releasing four zero-emissions EVs within a few years, and it has now announced the first of them will be produced in Spain from 2011.

The first evidence of Renault’s push to release a range of affordable, environmentally friendly vehicles will be based on the left-field Twizy ZE (for zero emissions) concept that made its global debut at the Frankfurt motor show in September.

Believed to be based on the similar LandGlider concept revealed by Nissan at last month’s Tokyo show, the Twizy will be built at Renault’s Valladolid plant 150km north-west of Madrid.

Renault says it chose the Valladolid facility, which already produces Modus exclusively alongside selected versions of the Clio, because of its expertise in producing compact cars. The plant will also manufacture a new internal combustion engine from 2012, and a new fossil-fuelled model from 2013.

 center image From top: Renault Zoe ZE concept, Renault Fluence ZE concept, Renault Kangoo ZE concept.

The ultra-compact Twizy concept is a two-seater city vehicle that weighs just 420kg and has a footprint similar to a scooter, riding on a 1695mm wheelbase and measuring 2303mm long, 1132mm wide and 2303mm long.

Offering a maximum driving range of 100km and a 75km/h top speed, it employs a 15kW/70Nm electric motor that is claimed to deliver 125cc motorcycle-style performance.

Second cab off Renault’s EV rank will be a zero-emissions sub-light model (known in Europe as a super-mini) based on the Zoe concept also shown at Frankfurt, which will be built at the Flins factory on the outskirts of Paris from 2012.

Renault says Flins, which currently makes the B-segment Clio and Clio Campus, will become a central “activity hub” for EVs, including the production and recycling of EV batteries. Both plants are said to be situated close to where the majority of sales will take place.

Described as a versatile urban model, Renault’s all-new electric light-car is expected to account for two-third of all Renault EV sales.

While Renault continues to develop EV technology at its Guyancourt Technocentre, the maker has also announced a joint-venture with Nissan, the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and France’s Strategic Investment Fund (FSI) to undertake research into advanced EV battery technologies, industrialisation and recycling.

Under the patronage of the French minister for industry, the JV at Flins would develop and manufacture EV battery packs for both Renault and Nissan models – and for any manufacturer willing to pay for them. The JV is expected to produce 100,000 EV batteries annually at Flins.

The first phase of the project represents an investment of €600 million ($A966m). As part of its mission to make long-term investments in companies that help to boost France’s competitiveness, the FSI will contribute €125 million, while the European Investment Bank (EIB) is considering a loan of up to 50 per cent of the €280 million in debt financing.

While the Flins battery facility will supply batteries primarily for the Twizy and Zoe, it will also supplement the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s battery plants in France, Portugal and the UK to supply EVs built and Europe and Turkey.

While Nissan will commence production of the small Leaf five-door EV from late 2010 for Japan and the US ahead of a global rollout in 2012, Renault says it plans to mass-market its full line-up of affordable ZE EVs by 2012 – the earliest Australians would see any model.

Apart from production versions of the Twizy and Zoe, Renaults plans EV versions of its Megane-based Fluence small sedan and Kangoo compact van, while Nissan’s EV line-up is led by the Leaf and includes EV derivatives of the NV200 van and Infiniti’s M model, plus the LandGlider.

While its French arch-rival PSA Peugeot-Citroen plans a range of diesel-electric hybrid vehicles, Renault’s all-electric model line-up will culminate in the small four-seater EV based on the 4.1-metre- long Zoe, which features the same electric drivetrain as the Fluence and Kangoo, in mid-2012.

EVs are expected to have a bright future in France, where the government has introduced consumer incentives of up to €5000 ($A8060) for the purchase of EVs in 2012. The French government will also finance the development of an EV recharging infrastructure.

“Realising the potential of zero-emission mobility on a mass scale requires unique collaboration between public and private sectors”, said Renault and Nissan chairman and CEO, Carlos Ghosn.

“We welcome the vision and commitment made today by the French government, the CEA and the FSI to invest with the Renault-Nissan Alliance in the future of clean transportation.”

Renault-Nissan, which marked its 10th anniversary as an alliance this year and sold a total of 6.09 million vehicles globally in 2008, has so far signed more than 30 EV infrastructure agreements with both business and government organisations.

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