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September 16, 2009

FRANKFURT SHOW: Renault promises EV blitz

The four Renault zero emission concept cars unveiled at Frankfurt are close to production and three of them will be on sale by 2011 with the fourth, the Zoe on sale in the early part of 2012.

The four Renault zero emission concept cars unveiled at Frankfurt are close to production and three of them will be on sale by 2011 with the fourth, the Zoe on sale in the early part of 2012.

The cars might have been concepts for the show but are already in the production pipeline, said Christine Tissot, general manager, electric vehicle business development.

First out will be the Fluence EV, based on the recently-launched eastern European Fluence saloon which is only slightly smaller than a Laguna.

It will be tested in Israel as part of the infrastructure support agreement with Project Better Place. More than 100 ‘quick drop’ battery change stations will be established in Israel by the time the Fluence is on sale.

Establishing the recharging infrastructure for these cars is the major challenge, said Tissot.

There are three options. The first is slow recharging from a mains outlet which typically takes six hours; the second is a rapid 15-minute recharge which boosts the batteries to 80% of their capacity; the third – and potentially most exciting – is the ‘quick drop’.

With this, the car will automatically determine how much charge is left and when and where the batteries need to be changed. The switch to a new pack takes around three minutes – less time than it takes to fill a tank of fuel.

“What we don’t know yet is how many of these quick drop stations we will need in a country like France or the UK. Our trials in Israel will help us with this,” said Tissot.

The four new EVs will meet the needs of only around 30% of buyers. “Our  challenge will be to get people to drive these cars and decide they want one,” said Tissot.

A European-wide series of test drives for potential fleet users is currently underway and comes to the UK in October.

The agreement between Renault and Better Place, announced on Tuesday,  commits both companies to a volume of at least 100,000 vehicles for Israel and Denmark by 2016.

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