Renault expects to produce around 20,000 units of its new in-house R240 electric motor this year and perhaps double that in 2016, according to the company’s head of EV sales and marketing, Vincent Carré.

The R240 went into production at the Cléon plant in Normandy in March this year, just after being revealed at the Geneva motor show. It is currently exclusively for the use of Renault’s flagship EV, Zoe, which also remains available with the original electric motor supplied by Continental from Germany.

Output of the R240 motor can reach 100,000 a year if demand exists – a sign that it is destined for much more widespread use, possibly throughout the Renault-Nissan Alliance, than is currently the case – but for now capacity is up to 50,000 a year solely for Renault.

"It is dependent on tax incentives," said Carré. "We still need the support of governments for another four or five years. At the moment there is a superb incentive in France targeted at old cars. Our orders tripled in one week.” 

Throughout Europe, pure EV sales doubled between January and March this year compared with the same period in 2014 to more than 24,500. "We have had three years of very strong growth and this is still accelerating. Our orders have multiplied times five," said Carré. 

The reason for having two motors with identical performance in Zoe is that while R240 offers an increased range (149 miles on the NEDC cycle against 130) and at lower cost, the Continental unit supports 43kW rapid charging, which R240 does not. The extended range with R240 is largely the result of innovative processes in the design of the stator and rotor, benefiting from the expertise of Nissan which builds its own motors for the Leaf.

"We have two customer targets," said Carré by way of explanation. "There are those who want an EV as a second or third car for local usage and for them we have optimised the engine for a normal charge. The extra 10 kilometres (6 miles) is very important for them. 

"But we have kept the original engine for people who do maybe 150 kilometres (95 miles) a day and need a fast charge. Today we wanted to increase autonomy with the new engine, but if we want to optimise it for a fast charge we can do it. Now if you have only local usage you choose the engine which is less expensive. If you want to do more kilometres on highways you choose the fast charge. But for the future nothing is excluded."