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Renault working on 141mpg plug-in hybrid concept

Wed, 27 Nov 2013

Renault is working on a 141mpg plug-in hybrid concept car, according to Renault head of research, advanced studies and materials, Remi Bastien.

Speaking to MSN Cars at Renault’s recent ‘Innovations’ event – showcasing the French manufacturer’s new technology that will underpin its next-generation models – Bastien revealed the new car will make its debut in 2014.

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This means the ‘2l/100km’ concept car will likely make its first public appearance at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, alongside the firm’s new rear-engined Twingo city car.

Speaking about the project in more detail, Bastien also outlined that Renault is “investigating petrol plug-in hybrid power” for the new concept and that keeping costs down for an eventual production version is a high priority.

Unlike other highly efficient vehicles, such as the 313mpg Volkswagen XL1 – expected cost over £90,000 in the UK – Bastien says a road-going version of the Renault prototype would be much more affordable:

“The concept is a B-segment car with Clio-type features in terms of practicality and space. If we were to make a production version it would be affordable.”

Bastien also outlined that the main focus of Renault’s research and development budget is currently aimed at reducing CO2 emissions and further developing environmentally friendly technology, with the company’s EV strategy well placed to help with calibrating a hybrid powertrain.

It’s also continuing to explore zero emissions electric vehicle technology to improve efficiency, range and practicality, as well as reducing cost.

However, unlike with combustion-engined cars, Bastien believes that weight is not the key driver here:

“Aerodynamics is more important than reducing weight to increase an electric vehicle’s range – we can use the weight to harvest more kinetic energy when slowing down.

“The main reason BMW decided to use lightweight carbonfibre for the i3 is for handling and performance, because of what the brand stands for. At Renault our challenge is to reduce cost.”

Another reason why we won’t see expensive carbonfibre used on a production Renault in the short- to medium-term, then.

What will heighten the appeal of Renault’s EV range, however, is advances in battery technology, believes Bastien:

“We are currently only at 50% of what we know about batteries. By 2020 the range of an EV car like the Zoe will double, getting close to 250 miles on one charge.

“It will be helped by improvements in infrastructure and maybe even inductive wireless charging.

“For now we are continuing to focus on our electric vehicles to devise an overall approach to energy management. If we can reduce ‘energy users’ in our cars – things like air conditioning and heaters – we will improve our range.

“Transferring this knowledge to combustion-engined cars, we could even see a 50g/km CO2 vehicle by the end of the decade.”

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