An affordable range of electric vehicles, from city car to family hatchback as well as a light commercial vehicle. That’s Renault’s green motoring plan for 2012 and the French manufacturer is already demonstrating the first of these vehicles ahead of its showroom launch next year.

The Renault Kangoo Be Bop ZE is the forerunner to the Kangoo Express LCV which will debut in 2011. This will be followed by an electric version of the Megane. Both these vehicles will be unveiled at the Frankfurt show in September.

Renault will also take the wraps off an all-new specifically designed “sporty but practical’ urban electric vehicle which will take to the roads in 2012.

The automaker, with Alliance partner Nissan, aim to be the first in the world to market with a full range of affordable EVs with the looks, range and price to appeal to the mass market.

Costs can be kept down thanks to subsidies of between EUR5,000 and EUR8,000 being introduced across Europe. Renault’s Kangoo Express will have a range of 160km (100 miles) and the company is moving towards a target of 200km (120 miles).

But Renault is also working with a number of potential partners to make extending that range even easier. It is working with authorities around the world to provide recharging points at work and en route while ‘quick drop’ stations will be established at dealers and possibly fuel stations and motorway service areas where an automated system can simply exchange your battery for a fully charged unit in just three minutes. 

Christine Tissot, general manager for electric vehicle business development, said the Alliance already has agreements in place with government authorities and utilities around the world.

She also said that discussions are being held with other carmakers to try and introduce common standards for batteries and ways to charge them. “We don’t want to find a situation as in the mobile phone industry where every manufacturer has different connectors. Batteries are very expensive so it makes sense to standardise where we can.”

Similar views were expressed by Toyota R&D chief Masatami Takimoto in Japan last month.

He told just-auto battery rental schemes may eventually be one solution to the range question but said that it was “too early” for them to be a practical proposition yet. “As an idea, battery exchange is interesting. The battery technology is continually evolving. When a battery can be standardised so that it could be used by all [auto] manufacturers then [an exchange system] would be feasible.”

While Renault and Nissan engineers are working on the range, Tissot said that 87% of European motorists travel less than 60km (35 miles) a day on average but the additional range is available for “psychological comfort.”

While the new Renault models may have zero emissions, Tissot also addressed the issue of the CO2 caused by the generation of electricity. She said: “This is certainly a point, particularly with coal-fired generators, but you have to look to the long term and to the fact that EVs also do not produce particulates or NOx like petrol and diesel engines.”

According to Renault’s own data, the UK’s coal-fired electricity generators will put the so called well-to-wheel figures for the Kangoo at 138g/km of CO2, just 1g/km less that a Megane diesel and more than the current Twingo at 104 g/km. In France which has nuclear power stations, that figure is just 2 g/km.