With the 2014 Paris Motor Show just over two weeks away, French automaker Renault has officially released details and images of a brand-new plug-in hybrid concept car it will debut at the 14-day event.
Designed as a B-Segment or Supermini car — essentially the same class of vehicle as its all-electric ZOE Z.E. hatchback and popular gasoline Clio model — the Renault EOLAB plug-in hybrid features similar design language to both cars. But while there are design elements you’ll recognise from both the ZOE and Clio models, the brand-new concept car promises what Renault says is a preview of some of the “innovative technology that is destined to be introduced on production Renaults from now until 2020.”
As the name suggests, the EOLAB has been built with the aim of producing a longer-range ultra-low fuel consumption vehicle. As with the Renault ZOE, there’s substantial use of recycled materials throughout, as well as the same low rolling resistance tires found in Renault’s plug-in hatch and a raft of weight-saving technologies designed to manage a claimed 1 litre per 100km fuel efficiency.
Like Volkswagen’s ultra-efficient XL1 plug-in hybrid, the Renault EOLAB makes use of lightweight materials in its construction. Instead of traditional automotive steel, aluminium is used for the vehicle’s running gear, and there are lightweight seats, a fixed hood and magnesium roof. Even the windscreen — just 3mm in thickness — saves a claimed 2.6 kilos in weight, while cabin plastics have been moulded with air inside them to make them even more lightweight.
In another weight-saving measure, the EOLAB features an asymmetrical door layout, with only a front door on the drivers’ side but two doors on the passenger side, a feature we first saw in BMW’s MINI Clubman.
In fact, even taking into account the additional weight of the battery pack and electric motor alongside the three-cylinder engine, the EOLAB tips the scales at 955 kilos (2,105 pounds). That’s little lighter than the iconic Renault 5 Turbo hot hatch from the 1980s, but still manages to squeeze in all of the usual safety features required and expected of a modern car.
In order to achieve the kind of fuel efficiency required to reach the 1 litre per 100km (282 MPG Imperial) goal, Renault has worked hard to make the EOLAB Concept as aerodynamic as possible. As well as reducing its coefficient of drag to 0.235Cd — a claimed 30 percent less than the current Clio — Renault has used a range of technologies designed to keep air flowing smoothly around the car.
These include an active front spoiler and rear flaps to divert the airflow in the most efficient manner, as well as an active ride height system which will drop the car closer to the road on long-distance trips for better fuel economy.
But most noticeable among the EOLAB’s aerodynamic features is a louvered ‘active wheel’ system, which enables the wheel rims to be completely covered for maximum efficiency, opening up the louvers when required to cool the brakes.
Which brings us nicely to the drivetrain.
Unlike the ZOE, the EOLAB features a 50 kilowatt electric motor and a three-cylinder, 75 horsepower, 1-litre gasoline engine. Paired with a 6.7 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, Renault says the EOLAB can run in all-electric mode for a total of 60 kilometres (37 miles) in the city at speeds of up to 120 kph (74 mph).
That might sound much like any number of plug-in hybrids and range-extended electric cars on the market today, but where the EOLAB differs from other vehicles is the way in which its gear system integrates with the engine and electric motor.
Instead of a discrete electric motor or dual-clutch system, the EOLAB features a clutchless transmission system which ties the electric motor and engine together. The first two gears — used for pulling away and regular cruising in EV mode — are connected to the electric motor and are automatically switched between according to vehicle speed. The third gear is attached to the gasoline engine, which Renault says gives the EOLAB nine different theoretical gears, which makes us think that the outside of the electric motor is most likely linked to the output of the engine. Since Renault isn’t keen on giving engineering specifics — and this is only a concept car at this stage — we’ll refrain from trying to second-guess the specifics of how the transmission works any further.
We’ll no doubt find out more about the Renault EOLAB concept when it is officially unveiled in just over two weeks’ time, but what do you think of it so far?
Is this a car we’ll eventually see offered alongside the Reanult ZOE as a plug-in hybrid option? Or will it forever remain a concept vehicle?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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