FEAL (Forum on the European Automotive Industry) in Lille brought suppliers, OEMs and government officials together in Frances primary manufacturing region for the sector

FEAL (Forum on the European Automotive Industry) in Lille brought suppliers, OEMs and government officials together in France's primary manufacturing region for the sector

Renault says pure EV vehicles will represent the "final destination" of the automotive industry as the sector continues to power ahead at around 50% per year growth of the market, although the manufacturer cautions on price.

"When I talk about EV, I talk about pure EV," said Renault electric vehicle global programme director, Eric Feunteun at the recent Forum on the European Automotive Industry (FEAL) in Lille, grouping suppliers, OEMs and government officials in France's primary manufacturing region for the sector. 

"What makes us quite positive about reaching double digit pure EV [is] it exists today. Of course for us a manufacturer, the priority is to avoid emissions during the use of the car; what is true all over the world is driving an EV is producing less CO2 than a conventional engine.

[However] "We have to keep in mind the first reason by far for rejection is price. Range is not any more the question for a very large chunk of the market. Charging points are not an issue either because you either charge at home or in the office.

"The good news is there is a very strong [connection] between innovation on an electric vehicle now and renewable energy. We at Renault consider smart charging is a reality today. We strongly believe this is the final destination of our industry. It is the only way to bring our massive contribution to the issue; we all have to solve this air quality of our planet."

Cost has been presented as a barrier to entry for future electric vehicle customers and Renault recognises pricing is key to driving further growth.

"Our industry is a volume industry and to reach mass production you ned to reduce costs," added Feunteun. "It is a major challenge for our industry. Electric vehicle for mass usage is a cost completive solution.

"It is not just new technology: it is really changing the whole company."

The issue of alternative propulsion is particularly relevant to France at the moment, which is finding itself increasingly exposed to the pressures starting to ratchet up against the diesel sector. France has traditionally viewed diesel as a staple fuel and has built considerable expertise surrounding the development of engine technologies associated with it, but a growing momentum against the energy is starting to bite.

"Our jobs are going to be changing," added Luc Chatel, previously Education Minister and now president of the Plateforme Automobile (PFA) Chatel," at the Lille conference.

"We have identified the sites which are going to be suffering from stopping diesel. The result is there will be an impact straight away with our factories. We have considerable know-how, especially in diesel engines. What are we going to do with all the people who are working in our factories and [who will be] victims of these changes?

"It is now we have to work on these issues with the State, regional authorities and territorial authorities. We have got to anticipate the way we can create training programmes for the jobs of the future. We are able to face these shocks, but we have to plan for them. The auto sector is going to go through upheaval it has never experienced in the past 120 years it has existed. It will be asking itself whether it can survive."

French Finance Minister, Bruno Le Maire estimates there are around 12,000 jobs directly involved in the diesel sector.

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