After bringing four all-electric cars to the market, it seems French automaker Renault is working on bringing the gasoline and electric worlds together with plans for a B-segment plug-in hybrid.
As AutoExpress reports, Renault is currently working on a fuel-sipping concept car which it plans to unveil at next year’s 2014 Geneva Motor Show.
Talking to AutoExpress, Remi Bastien, Renault’s head of research, advanced studies and materials, said the automaker is “investigating petrol plug-in hybrid power” for a prototype vehicle which will eventually become an affordable B-segment car comparable to the current Clio in terms of features, space and comfort.
Renault, which currently makes four all-electric cars: the Twizy microcar, which has seating for two in a tandem configuration, no windows and a top speed of just 50 mph ; the Zoe hatchback, which offers hot-hatch styling in a B-segment city car capable of recharging from empty to full in 30 minutes at compatible AC quick charge stations; the Kangoo Z.E. commercial van, now in its second iteration and already popular with sole traders and small courier firms; and the Fluence Z.E. sedan, a five-seat fleet-oriented no-nonsense saloon, has traditionally favoured pure electric cars over hybrid technology. But with the cost of batteries remaining high and many car buyers still put off all-electric cars due to range anxiety, a plug-in hybrid offering from Renault makes perfect sense.
Emissions, however, remain Renault’s biggest drive to produce a plug-in hybrid, as Bastien explains. “The main thrust of our research and development budget is spent on improving emissions – with our electric vehicle strategy with the Zoe EV, we’re perfectly placed to develop hybrid systems,” he said.
There’s no details on how much range Renault’s plug-in hybrid prototype will offer on a single charge, but Bastien hinted that a fuel economy of around 141 mpg combined (2 litres per 100km, 117 mpg U.S.) should be expected from the prototype. That’s less than the combined fuel economy of cars like Volkswagen’s limited-production $100,000 XL1 two-seat coupe, but Renault says it isn’t interested in a car that only fans will buy. Instead, it wants to make plug-in cars as affordable — and as appealable as possible.
What should we expect? Based on the little we know, we’re expecting a car which offers 20 to 30 miles of all-electric range, and uses a small, fuel-efficient gasoline engine — like the TCe90 three-cylinder turbocharged 900cc engine currently found in the Renault Clio — providing range extending capabilities.
We’d like to see some of the Zoe’s stylings in Renault’s concept PHEV, along with the option to have an estate (station wagon) version for those who want the practicality of a larger boot but the efficiency of a plug-in car.
What we do know however, is that Renault won’t be taking a leaf out of BMW’s book and producing a car with carbon fibre composites. That, says Bastien, might make cars like the BMW i3 perform better than steel or aluminium-bodied counterparts, but it misses out on making the car more affordable.
“I think the main reason BMW uses lightweight carbon fibre on the BMW i3, for example, is because of performance, because of what the brand stands for – not necessarily for efficiency,” he said. Meanwhile, he continued, Renault’s philosophy is to make plug-in vehicles affordable for all. Range, and affordability, come first, he explained.
What would you like a plug-in hybrid from Renault to look like? What features would you like it to have? And what sort of range? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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