Renault has defended the profitability of its electric vehicles, despite rivals questioning whether the company can make any money on the Kangoo ZE van, the first EV to come from the French brand.

Priced at £16,990 +VAT in the UK when it launches in November, plus £62 per month to lease the battery over three years and 27,000 miles, the Kangoo is priced to appeal against diesel light vans, but Renault denied it is losing money on the first generation of the technology in order to establish battery power.

“We need to make money to sell a car, I need to decide the price of a car four or five years before,” said Renault product planning vice president Beatrice Foucher. “We need to find profitability five years before, and then we push the button. It’s a bet, sometimes a safe one, sometimes more difficult.”

She said Renault expects to make money on its electric vehicle programme from the first generation, rather than the route taken by the likes of Toyota, as the first generation Prius lost the firm money on each car but established Toyota as a hybrid leader. “With EVs, we hope to make money, this is the business case we have decided,” said Foucher. “It is possible to lose money because you made a mistake, but it is not possible to decide to launch a car to lose money and we will make money on this generation of EVs.”

The Kangoo will be joined by the small two-Seat Twizy in spring 2012, costing from £6690 plus £40 per month for the battery over three years and 7500 miles, and the lower medium saloon Fluence, £17,850 including the £5000 Government incentive – the first Renault EV to be eligible – with a battery lease of £70 over 6000 miles and three years. The fourth Renault electric vehicle to launch in the next 122 months is the supermini Zoe, though there are little details outside of its scheduled autumn introduction.

Follow BusinessCar on TWITTER