Renault trabaja en tres modelos de vehículos eléctricos

El Z. E. Concept (Zero Emisions) serviría como vehículo industrial urbano, similar a una pequeña furgoneta. Tendría una autonomía de 150 a 200 kilómetros.

Otro modelo sería un coche de ciudad algo mayor que el Twingo, y es probable que se fabrique en Valladolid.  Tendría una autonomía de 150 a 200 kilómetros y 95 caballos de potencia.

Renault asegura que sus vehículos eléctricos tendrán una autonomía suficiente para la movilidad media de los conductores, cifrada en 60 kilómetros diarios. También tienen suficiente potencia, porque llegan a los 95 caballos, la misma que ofrece un motor de gasolina de 1,6 litros de cilindrada.

Al posible modelo que saldría de la cadena de montaje de Valladolid, se uniría otro en Palencia, un Mégane eléctrico. Este modelo lo montará la fábrica de Bursa, en Turquía, y se destinará inicialmente al mercado israelí, país que pretende despegarse cuanto antes de la dependencia de los combustibles fósiles.

Si el  mercado funciona y el coche se vende e interesa en Europa, Palencia se ocuparía de surtir al mercado centroeuropeo de este turismo.

El tercer modelo es la furgoneta, un vehículo eléctrico indutrial basado en la Kangoo, con la que comparte plataforma y destinado a  pequeños empresarios, transportistas y autónomos.

Los tres modelos eléctricos estarán listos en 2011, porque al año siguiente, en 2012, serán los coches oficiales que trasladen a los deportistas en la olimpiada de Londres.

Uno de los problemas del coche eléctrico en España es el de encontrar un socio, como la eléctrica EDF en Francia, que colabore en el desarrollo de la infraestructura necesaria para la recarga de las baterías.

La cumbre hispano gala de Madrid sobre la fabricación de coches eléctricos en España condicionará la decisión última de las dos multinacionales francesas, Renault y PSA (Citroën-Peugeot). En el caso de Renault el Estado francés posee el 15% del capital de la firma.


Renault Bets on Electric Vehicles

The French carmaker doubts that hybrids can reduce emissions sufficiently. 

Might the most fuel-efficient vehicles in mass production–powerful hybrids, such as Toyota’s Prius, that can run on either gasoline or electricity–already be destined for the science museum? That’s the argument that French carmaker Renault is making. Renault says that it is engineering a pair of battery-powered electric vehicles (EVs), to be produced starting in 2011, that it claims will be cheaper to build, cost markedly less to power, and produce far less carbon dioxide.

Renault’s vision for electric cars is small vehicles principally designed for commuting. Renault unveiled a concept car showing the design of a compact EV commuter car: an EV version of its Kangoo utility van, with startling acid-green windows to minimize air conditioning and a lithium-ion battery that carries the van 160 to 200 kilometers on an average charge.

That range "really covers the usage by our customers, who are using their cars only for commuting and maybe short trips during the weekend," says Renault EV project director Serge Yoccoz. As a result, he predicts that such EVs could capture from 10 to 15 percent of the European car market as early as 2015. (Hybrids currently command just 2 percent of auto sales worldwide).

Renault won’t be the first to test the commuter market with battery EVs. Renault says that EVs are a necessity because hybrids cannot deliver the level of gasoline use and emissions reductions that governments and customers are demanding of automakers.

The EV is the breakthrough required because, according to Renault, driving the EV Kangoo generates zero carbon dioxide when charged with renewable energy, and no more than 60 grams per kilometer when charged on today’s coal-heavy power grids. Any of those scenarios compares well with the more than 130 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer coming out the tailpipe of Renault’s diesel-fueled Kangoos, which are relatively efficient vehicles for their class.

Lithium batteries for Renault’s first round of products, at least, will come from a joint venture of Japan’s Nissan, with which Renault is partnering on EV technology development, and NEC. Newer lithium technologies have eclipsed the performance of the joint venture’s manganese-based lithium-ion chemistry, but Yoccoz says that the Nissan-NEC process is one of the cheapest. 

Renault bets that ultimately, the relative simplicity of battery EVs should make them cheaper than plug-in hybrids such as General Motors’ Chevy Volt, a vehicle that GM plans to launch in 2010 that will couple a commuter-range battery that can be charged overnight with a gasoline engine-generator to sustain the vehicle on longer trips.

"Putting two engines in a car is . . . more complicated, and it’s more expensive," says Yoccoz. "Even including infrastructure costs, the electric vehicle is still a better proposition from an economical point of view."

But the downside to Renault’s plan is, of course, vehicle range. "We’re not talking about holidays," acknowledges Yoccoz. Frank Weber, GM’s global vehicle line executive for the Chevy Volt calls that a trap: "You don’t want to be in exactly this corner where you say, ‘Here’s this purpose-built little car.’"

Weber predicts that while most drivers don’t go very far on a typical day, they will still expect more from a car. He says that EV commuter cars with limited range will remain a niche market, and therefore will never reach the scale needed to bring down costs–especially important when it comes to still-pricey lithium-ion batteries. "Electric vehicles are not a good choice," says Weber.

Yoccoz says that’s precisely why automakers that are talking up EVs, such as Renault, Mitsubishi, and Mercedes, are also working to catalyze the installation of charging stations. Renault is working with Project Better Place, based in Palo Alto, CA, to install charging stations in Denmark and Israel, where the company will market its first EVs, starting with the Kangoo and an EV version of an as yet unreleased sedan called the Fluence, targeted at the Israeli market. Daimler, meanwhile, established a partnership with German utility RWE last month to install 500 EV charging points in Berlin, where the carmaker will deploy more than 100 of its EV Smart Fortwos. And this week, Paris said that it would make 4,000 EVs available on its streets in 2010 through an automobile version of Velib, its popular bike-rental program.

Helping to accelerate the development of that charging infrastructure and pushing governments to reward development of ultraclean vehicles is what Yoccoz calls his second and third jobs. "With our usual products, the main job is to find the customers, define what their needs are, and then find a product for their needs," he says. "What we have to do on top of that for the electric vehicle is really redefine a business model."