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Renault raises EV activity

Date: 16 July 2009   |   Author:

Electric Renault Bebop

Renault's build-up to the launch of its first mass-market electric vehicles has gathered pace with a number of moves aimed at getting the corporate sector excited about the developments.

The French firm has already taken "several very large fleet customers" over to Paris to test the first prototype vehicle. It will have the vehicle in London in October to show MPs, lobby groups and other interested parties, and has even signed a confidentiality agreement with three fleets that have 100,000 vehicles between them with the aim of that they will help Renault bring EVs to market.

"Renault/Nissan aims to launch to the mass market, not as a PR exercise," Renault fleet boss Keith Hawes told BusinessCar. "The feedback has been fairly phenomenal in terms of support, interest and commitment to the project in view of cost of ownership, huge reduction in CO2 targets, and what was the clincher for them was a proper infrastructure and way we plan to manage the power source and battery management."

Renault hopes to set up a network of car wash-style battery drop centres, where a charged battery can be slotted in to replace the one that's running out for just the cost of the charge. Hawes likened it to refilling a gas barbecue bottle.

Renault's first electric vehicle trials will kick off in 2011 as a pilot with several customers, before going on general sale later in the year.

With the Government's promised £5000 subsidy for buying electric vehicle, Renault is pledging cost parity for diesel and electric power. "Buying and managing the vehicles is key, if you look at a Smiths Electric Transit, it's £50,000 and when you look at the total cost of ownership it doesn't make sense," said Hawes. "It's the same for some of the cars appearing and in our opinion that's not a credible way to launch to into the mass market."

The first vehicles will be electric versions of the Kangoo van and passenger cars, and the Megane saloon, all coming around two years from now. The following year will herald the first two vehicles developed specifically as an EV, as opposed to versions of conventionally-powered cars.