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Renault 2010 Environment Workshop, Part 2: Electric Vehicles

Renault held a “2010 Environment Workshop” last week to showcase its progress across its range of vehicles’ full lifecycle through the Renault eco² program.

In terms of powertrain technologies, Renault focused on the introduction of new technologies for internal combustion engines and conventional transmissions, as well as outlining its commitment to electric powertrains. Renault will begin selling affordable mass-production electric vehicles in 2011 (earlier post); the Alliance is aiming to be the market leader in sales of mass market Zero-Emission (during road use) vehicles.

Renault estimates that electric vehicles will account for 10% of the world market by 2020.

Leveraging the Alliance. A decade after the establishment of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, the two companies stepped up their cooperation in May 2009. This included the creation of a team dedicated to speeding up and broadening the synergies that will enable both companies to improve their performance, and more particularly in the field of electric vehicles.

In addition to equipping the electric vehicles produced by Renault and Nissan with batteries developed by AESC, a Nissan-NEC joint venture, the Alliance has pooled the expertise of Renault and Nissan to strengthen synergies at every level and encourage the sharing of major electrical assemblies, such as powertrains and batteries.

Renault and Nissan also share purchasing requirements and have standardized components to generate economies of scale with a view to making it possible to develop mass-market electric vehicles.

Batteries. Battery production is poised to become a core activity for the Renault-Nissan Alliance. Renault and Nissan will manufacture lithium-ion batteries on three continents—America, Asia and Europe—with a view to supplying the body assembly factories where the forthcoming EVs will be produced from a local source.

This multi-locality arrangement will permit a secure supply flow and ensure logistics-related cost savings, Renault said, while at the same time enabling significant production volumes to be turned over.

In the longer term, this set-up will allow the Alliance to produce more than 500,000 battery packs annually.

The AESC Li-ion battery pack to be applied in Renault’s first wave of EVs comprises 48 power modules, each comprising four cells, positioned in two rows, side by side. The four cells of each module store 8.4V each, making a combined total of 400V for the 48 modules that make up the battery.

The Alliance is actively working on establishing recycling processes and infrastructures suited to Li-ion automotive batteries.

Range optimization. Renault is trying to make optimization as straightforward and efficient as possible. A specific MMI (Man Machine Interface) has been developed to keep the driver informed about the vehicle’s current state of charge and remaining range:

  • a gauge alongside the speedometer displays the battery’s level of charge.

  • an “econo-meter” uses a new a new color-coded system to tell the driver how economical his or her driving is in terms of energy consumption (light blue for “normal” vehicle use, dark blue for “optimal” driving and red for excessive energy consumption likely to reduce the vehicle’s range).

  • The trip computer is adapted to the needs of electric vehicles and indicates the number of kWh remaining, average and instantaneous energy consumption and remaining range (in kilometers).

Three battery-charging techniques. Renault is supporting three battery-charging techniques in its EVs:

  • A standard charge using a conventional plug via the household supply or at the workplace (between six and eight hours).

  • Fast charge: permits batteries to be charged to 80% of their capacity in 30 minutes.

  • Battery exchange stations: rapid battery exchange in bespoke exchange stations. In Israel, Better Place is currently putting a network of such stations into place. About 100 will be operational in 2011 and they will be compatible with Renault’s first all-electric saloon car, Fluence Z.E.. Other stations will be opened progressively in other countries.

Customers. The four electric cars which make up the range of models that will begin to be introduced from mid-2011 are aimed at distinct types of customers:

  • Twizy Z.E. Concept is an innovative two-seater vehicle which targets city dwellers looking for a safer, more comfortable, zero-emission (during road use) alternative to a scooter.

  • Zoe Z.E. Concept is a versatile, Clio-sized city car which covers all types of everyday use, from the daily journey to work and school runs, to trips to the shops. It is the core model of the electric vehicle range.

  • Fluence Z.E. targets a third type of motorist. As an electric version of the Fluence saloon car, this spacious five-seater is designed for single-car families and packs all the appointments expected of a D-segment vehicle.

  • Kangoo Express Z.E. is aimed at fleet operators and business customers.

Surveys reveal that 50% of versatile, Clio-type hatchbacks are never used for long trips, Renault said. Instead, they tend to serve essentially for short journeys, although half of owners cover 50 km (31 miles) daily (i.e. 12,000 km (7,456 miles) per year based on 240 days’ use).

In the month-and-a-half since the opening of on-line pre-bookings via the Renault-ze.com website on 15 April 2010, early interest for Fluence Z.E. and Kangoo Express Z.E. amounts to 2,500 orders. Interest has come predominantly from private motorists (87%), with some 80% of pre-bookings concerning Fluence Z.E..

Comments

HarveyD

The Fluence could be an ideal electrified vehicle if it only had a very small (mini) on-board genset to crawl to the nearest quick charge station or the home garage.

SJC

Quick charging may have its place in the scheme of things. It may shorted battery life, but it will be seldom used and could be a range anxiety hedge.

kelly

A few more oil spills and price gouges will enhance such vehicle sales.

HarveyD

SJC: The problem will be when you're stuck on a highway in a huge traffic jam on a very hot summer day (or in a heavy snow storm) with the next charge point 10 Km away. You may have to do without AC or heater for 1+ hour and may even need a booster truck. Future highways may have charge points every 5 Km or so but current one don't and it will take years to modify existing highways. We even see many people running out of gas with current 800 Km ICE vehicles in the above mentioned conditions.

sulleny

"Battery exchange stations: rapid battery exchange in bespoke exchange stations. In Israel, Better Place is currently putting a network of such stations into place."

The problem with the battery swap concept is the incentive to limit battery capacity to increase swap potential. This is typical of a third party "service" that is both unnecessary and scarring of the landscape.

People dumb enough to run out of juice on the freeway will be viewed no differently than the idiots who run out of gas. Why cater to the clowns?

SJC

It would not cost much to put in quick charge stations, if there are enough EVs to use them. Shortened battery life may be an acceptable trade off if they are seldom used. With chargers at work, people would only need them now and then, but there could be enough people to make them profitable.

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