Renault Electric Vehicles – The EV Future moves closer

In Renault by Jonathan HumphreyLeave a Comment

Renault unveiled four electric concept cars at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show with a promise to make them widely available to motorists starting in 2012… Since then, Renault has publicised each milestone in this ambitious and unique project, securing the backing of governments, signing partnership agreements and testing battery safety.

Renault has focused on training its network, sales staff, technicians and repairers with the aim of offering customers seamless service. Electric vehicles were first tested in The Sims 3 virtual community before being put through real-world trials involving more than 400 EVs and a panel of users across nine markets.

Today, Renault is honouring the commitment it made at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show with the release of its first electric vehicles. Renault is demonstrating its drive for innovation, clearly investing in a future with the environment at its core. Electric cars are no longer a dream out of reach for many, but a reality accessible to the majority of the buying public.


Electric vehicles are the flagships of Renault’s eco²drive, a position which is centred squarely on the availability of a range of more ecologically-aware and readily affordable products and services. In its ‘Renault 2016 – Drive the Change’ plan, the Renault group committed to reducing its global carbon footprint by 10 percent between now and 2013, and by a further 10 percent between 2013 and 2016. It will achieve this by:

  • introducing new technologies for internal combustion engines and transmissions, and
  • making an unprecedented commitment to all-electric vehicles.

Renault estimates that electric vehicles will account for 10 percent of the world market by 2020. The Renault-Nissan Alliance aims to be a key player in this new form of mobility with 1.5 million Renault and Nissan electric vehicles on the roads by 2016. The Alliance is investing €4 billion in this Zero Emission programme and deploying a 2,000-strong team (1,000 at Renault and 1,000 at Nissan) working on electric vehicles.


  1. Why electric vehicles?
  2. In the beginning
  3. How an electric motor works
  4. Safe, high-performance batteries
  5. Full-scale trials: 400 vehicles in nine countries
  6. Award-winning technology
  7. Network geared up for arrival of Z.E. range
  8. Partnership agreements
  9. Eight misconceptions about electric motoring

10. The Renault Z.E. electric range



“The automobile industry contributes to the problem of climate change. It generates 12 percent of the CO2 emissions that result from human activity and accounts for 25 percent of the world’s oil consumption. At Renault, therefore, we have decided to be part of the solution.”

“The stakes relating to the introduction of widely affordable electric vehicles call for far-reaching changes to our industry so that the automobile is once more perceived as a means of progress, both for mankind and for the planet. The aim is to integrate the automobile more fully in its environment and make our towns and villages greener, quieter and more pleasant to live in.”  Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Renault Group

After 18 years of research, lithium-ion battery technology has come of age and provides a satisfactory response in terms of both range – which has doubled compared with the technology developed in the 1980s – and safety.

Although Renault engines stand out amongst the best in class for emissions are concerned, using oil as a source of energy will always result in the emission of CO2. Electric vehicles are consequently the only real clean-break solution, since they do not emit any CO2 whilst in use on the road.

However, the environmental impact of electricity generation must also be acknowledged. That said, as things stand, electric vehicles are much cleaner than their internal combustion-engined counterparts in terms of their ‘well-to-wheel’ energy balance, even when the generation of the electricity they use is taken into account.

And if electricity is one day produced entirely by the sun, wind or water, or by nuclear power, they will become emission-free. With an all-electric car and clean energy, the lifecycle of our vehicles – from manufacturing through to recycling – will be that much more attractive.


“In 2011, the utopian idea of driving electric cars will at last become a reality thanks to Renault, 169 years after an electric vehicle first turned a wheel. That historic occasion was back in 1842 when a certain Andrew Davidson could be seen in the streets of Edinburgh travelling in a bizarre machine equipped with two electromagnetically-driven axles. This year, it will be possible to spot no fewer than two electric vehicles in our towns and countryside: Kangoo Van Z.E. and Fluence Z.E.  These models will cost the same price as an equivalent diesel-engined model. Soon, Twizy (at the price of a three wheeled scooter) and ZOE (at a Clio’s price) will complete the electric range. With Renault, not only are electric vehicles about to take to the streets, but they are also readily affordable.”  Thierry Koskas, Electric Vehicle Programme Director

One car stood out on the Tuileries Esplanade at the second Paris Motor Show in June 1899: The ‘Jamais Contente’, designed by Belgian Camille Jenatzy. This electric car was powered by two electric motors each producing 50kW. It had broken the land speed record not far from Achères, near Paris, on April 28, 1899, reaching a phenomenal 106kph. In 1904, there were some 30 electric carriages on the streets of Paris. They had to return to the depot every 60 kilometres to be fitted with a freshly charged battery. At the time, there were only 10 or so petrol-driven carriages around…

Despite these promising first steps, internal combustion engines took precedence over electric motors because they were a faster solution to get up and running and to amortise. One hundred years later, electricity is an integral part of our lives and we use electrical appliances, cameras and camcorders, mobile phones and even trains, underground systems and trams on a daily basis. Personal transport and aeronautics are the last two industries consuming oil as their direct source of energy.


Motor-reducer unit  Electric motors comprise a stator which creates a rotating magnetic field, which in turn causes a rotor to rotate around the motor’s shaft. The motor itself is coupled to a reducer with a single output ratio that transmits torque to the wheels. This assembly is known as the motor-reducer and ensures smooth, linear acceleration. It can never stall, since there is no clutch. Reverse is obtained by simply making the motor rotate in the opposite direction. Electric motors boast outstanding energy efficiency (90 percent) which is far superior to the 25 to 40 percent of internal combustion engines.

Power electronics unit  Electrical energy is transmitted to the motor-reducer unit via a power electronics unit which incorporates a controller. This transforms the 400V direct current into three-phase alternating current to power the stator. Situated in the same housing as the controller, the transformer converts the 400V DC stored in the traction battery into 12V DC to supply the vehicle’s conventional onboard electrics and auxiliary functions (interior and exterior lighting, audio system, electric windows, etc.).

Junction box  It is the junction box which distributes the power current to the motor, battery, climate control and heating systems. It also houses the charger which converts the electricity supply’s 220V AC into 400V DC for battery charging when decelerating.

For its launch, Fluence Z.E. will be powered by electric motors made and assembled by Continental. From early 2013, Renault will manufacture its own electric motors at its Cléon plant in France.


Fluence Z.E. and Kangoo Z.E.’s battery comprises 48 power modules, each of which incorporates four cells. It is inside these cells that the electrochemical reactions take place, enabling electrical current to be produced or energy to be stored. Individual modules are similar in size to a laptop computer and are positioned in three superimposed layers. Each module delivers 8.3V, making a combined total of 400V for the 48 modules. These compact, innovative lithium-ion batteries are supplied by AESC (Automotive Electric Supply Corporation), a Nissan-NEC joint venture.

Renault has chosen lithium-ion technology. The performance of these batteries compared with former-generation nickel metal hydride batteries is superior in every domain, from range and battery life, to reliability, safety and price. They do not suffer from the so-called ‘memory effect’ resulting from incomplete charge cycles which can ultimately lead to a fall-off in capacity in the case of conventional batteries. The battery requires no maintenance and can be charged for short cycles with no adverse effect on capacity.

To put the demand for lithium supplies into perspective, the 250kg battery found in Kangoo Z.E. contains 3kg of lithium. According to mining companies Chemetall and SQM, worldwide lithium reserves are currently estimated to be between 14 and 17 million tonnes. At our current state of research, this represents more than six billion electric vehicles, taking into account the different types of battery used.

Renault is establishing a system to collect damaged or end-of-life batteries in all the countries where its electric vehicles are marketed. The recycling process itself involves stripping batteries into sub-assemblies (housings, electronics, modules, etc.). All the components, with the exception of the modules and cells, are recycled in keeping with conventional processes or else re-employed. Battery modules are dealt with by specialist recycling companies. Renault has entered into an initial partnership with Umicore, a company with a global presence and the number one lithium-ion battery recycling specialist.

From the very beginning of the project, Renault, monitored by the public authorities, committed to making its electric vehicles as safe as its internal combustion-engined vehicles. Battery safety is ensured thanks to the following:

  • The stable properties of manganese.
  • The electronic system which monitors the battery’s cells.
  • The robust housing of the modules. The specification of this housing has been selected to optimise passive safety in a collision. The vehicle structure itself is also reinforced in order to protect the battery.

Meanwhile, Renault has been working actively with emergency services ahead of the launch of its electric vehicles. For example, an Emergency Response Guide (ERG) has been drawn up in association with fire service to complement their own training materials.

Extensive testing has been carried out to ensure that Z.E. vehicles are risk-free. An in-house so-called ‘barbecue test’ saw Renault light a fire underneath a vehicle to measure how long it took for the vehicle to catch fire. The result showed that electric vehicles are even more fire-resistant than internal combustion-engined vehicles because they do not have a fuel tank. The battery catches fire after a period of 10 minutes, compared to between one and two minutes in the case of a petrol tank. And there is no explosion.

5) FULL-scale trials: 400 vehicles in nine countries

Between December 2010 and the launch of Renault’s electric vehicle range, more than 400 Zero Emission cars have been and will be put into the hands of customers. To date, such trials are running in nine countries: France, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Israel, Russia, Korea, Singapore and Australia.

Initial reactions from those involved in the SAVE trials in France have been extremely positive. According to participants, Z.E. vehicles deliver the same performance as an internal combustion-engined vehicle: “I always thought electric vehicles were for fuddy-duddies, but they aren’t at all,” noted one lady user who works for Carrefour Property. Battery charging was found to be simple: “The charging station is tactile and easy to operate,” remarked another user. Z.E. vehicles are reassuring to drive: “You see other drivers waiting at traffic lights revving their engine, clearly in a hurry. It’s a bit silly really, and quite a strange antic when you think about it,” observed another Carrefour Property employee.

Feedback from trials indicates that the vehicles were used intensively – proof that they meet customers’ needs for transportation. By way of example, the company Colizen used its Kangoo Z.E. an average 56 miles per day. And passenger transport company 2ATP MR drove their Fluence Z.E. an average 67 miles per day.

Z.E. Tour: Renault’s entire Z.E. range toured 11 European countries over seven months. A variety of Test-drive venues opened their doors to all those keen to experience the driving pleasure of an electric car.


Fluence Z.E. took first place on the podium in the 300-kilometre inter-city 2011 Challenge Bibendum rally. Despite entering a category not normally suited to electric vehicles, it took the trophy not only from high-performance electric roadsters, but also from hydrogen and fuel-cell vehicles.

Fluence Z.E. has also notched up several other awards:

  • Fluence Z.E. came first in the manoeuvrability test on the ADAC circuit. In the hands of Gregory Fargier, a test driver for Renaut Sport Technologies, the car achieved a record time of 2 minutes, which is five seconds faster than the most powerful electric roadster.
  • Fluence Z.E. won the award for best energy efficiency. It succeeded in covering the 300 kilometres of the Challenge Bibendum with a consumption of only 37.44kWh. This represents a total range of 215 kilometres (including performance tests).
  • Fluence Z.E.’s entire well-to-wheel CO2 output was also recognised with an award. As calculated by the Michelin team of experts, the figure of 57g/km was lower than that of hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles. It demonstrates that Renault’s electric technology is the cleanest and best-performing alternative energy solution.
  • Renault also received a design award for the best integration of battery charging solutions in the vehicle.

Fluence Z.E. needed one battery swap halfway through the race to complete 300-kilometre route, taking six minutes to do the job. This was carried out under rally conditions by simply altering the battery mountings so that the battery could be changed using just hand tools. The final battery mounting system available as standard equipment will be designed for automated battery swaps only.


Renault has structured its sales and after-sales network for optimum customer service.

Renault UK have appointed a network of 20 Z.E. Expert Dealers who have invested in specialist tooling, training for both sales and workshop staff (including accreditation to a European standard for electrical safety from both the IMI and Lloyds Register) and showroom display. In addition these Z.E. Dealers will have a demonstrator for each model in the Z.E. range. These centres will introduce customers to a whole new world of motoring enjoyment. The emphasis here will be on test drives so that customers receive a thorough understanding of what life with an electric vehicle is all about.

The whole Renault network will however have a role to play in the sale of electric vehicles handling initial enquiries and passing these to the nearest Z.E. Dealer. They are also able to carry out non-specialist maintenance operations.


To date, more than 100 partnership agreements have been signed worldwide by the Renault-Nissan Alliance in order to promote electric vehicles and introduce charging facility networks:


Geographical coverage Partners
Europe Europe-wide: Europcar, IBIL, AXA Assistance. France: La CREA, E.Leclerc, EDF, Carbox, Monaco, SAVE, Colizen, Vinci Autoroutes, Nord-Pas de Calais region, Unibail-Rodamco. France (Ile de la Réunion): EDF, GBH, Total Réunion, GE Money and GERRI Agency. Germany: RWE, Pilot Project (NRW, FKA and IFHT). Italy: A2A, Enel. Spain: Unibail-Rodamco, Acciona Emo, Andalusia, Barcelona, Castilla y Leon, Endesa, Madrid. GB: Elektromotive, Greentomatocars, Milton Keynes, One North East. Switzerland: EWZ. Ireland: Irish government and Electricity Supply Board, Northern Ireland. Denmark: Better Place. Portugal: MOBI.E Tech, government. Netherlands: Amsterdam, Lease Plan, government, Athlon, E-Laad, TNT. Georgia: government
Americas Arizona: Ecotality / ETEC & PAG (Tucson area), MAG. California: San Diego Gas & Electric, San Francisco, Sonoma County. Connecticut: Northeast Utilities, Connecticut State and CL&P. Federal government: Department of Energy. Florida: Orlando and Orlando Utilities Commission. Georgia: Atlanta, Georgia Power. Hawaii: Hawaii State. Massachusetts: Massachusetts Dept of Energy Resources. North Carolina: Raleigh, Advanced Energy, Progress Energy, Charlotte city Partners, Duke Energy. Oregon: Oregon State and PGE. Tennessee: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee State and TVA, Houston and Reliant Energy. Washington: Seattle. Argentina: Cordoba. Brazil: Sao Paulo. Canada: British Columbia, Vancouver and BC Hydro, Toronto, Toronto Hydro. Chile: government. Mexico: Mexico City. Quebec: Communauto, Quebec Province, Quebec city, Quebec hydro, Montreal.
Japan Aomiri, ChaDeMo Association, Ryokan Association, Yakushima, Kanagawa Prefecture, Daikyo, Kita Kyushu City, Kyoto, Mitsubishi Motors, Horiba, Miyazaki Prefecture, Niigata, Okinawa, Saitama City, Yokohama city.
Other regions Australia: ACT CAnderra, New South Wales, Victoria State, Better Place. China: Guangdong Province, Guangzhou City, Ministry for Industry, Dongfeng, Wuhan City, Hong Kong. Israel: Better Place. Jordan. New Zealand: EECA, Wellington. Singapore: EMA, LTA, EDB. South Africa: Gauteng. India: Chennai. Taiwan: Taichung. Turkey: Istanbul, Gaziantep & Gaski Enerji, Ankara.
Worldwide DHL, AVIS, Schindler, GE Global Research





“No charging socket will be the same”

The cable included with Fluence Z.E. complies with the standards in force in the country of launch. In the UK. the DfT’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) has recently published a clear strategy to migrate public charging infrastructure from 3-pin to type 2 sockets by April 2012.


“Finding a battery charging station will be mission impossible”

The Carminat TomTom® Z.E. Live smart navigation system – standard equipment on Fluence Z.E. – finds the nearest battery charging stations for you. Simply follow the instructions to locate one.


“The battery loses potential if it is charged incorrectly”

Lithium-ion technology means that when you do not use your vehicle, the battery does not lose its potential at all.


“EVs aren’t for big road users”

If you drive an average of 80 miles per day, equivalent to 20,000 miles per year (based on a 5 day working week), the technology can more than go the distance.


“Electric vehicles just aren’t practical”

You need never change your route again to ‘fill up’. Charging stations are positioned exactly where you usually park your vehicle. And forget about scheduling an oil change.


“At night, the lights drain the battery”

The lights are extremely economical in the power they use – you’ll find they can go on just as long as you do.


“The batteries are tough to recycle”

The batteries can be dismantled entirely and fully recycled. Lithium-ion is not a heavy metal, so it is easy to reuse – you even find it in some medications.


“The power grid won’t be able to handle it”

A significant proportion of electricity generated at night is not used. The majority of electric vehicles will be charged at night in order to take advantage of off-peak electricity rates.


Renault will be the first volume automobile manufacturer to offer a comprehensive range of all-electric vehicles in 2012. Today we launch the first two readily affordable models. The two vehicles due out next are full of surprises. Renault’s Z.E. range will soon be boosted by the arrival of Twizy and ZOE – two models designed as EVs from the ground up.

Twizy, an unprecedented urban mobility solution

Twizy is an unprecedented solution for city motoring. Its nimble handling prompts parallels with the world of scooters and motorbikes, yet the standard of safety and comfort it delivers is close to that of a four-wheeled vehicle. Twizy stands out as a symbol of the ‘Renault 2016 – Drive the Change’ plan.

ZOE, the 5-door hatch that ensures everyday wellbeing for all

ZOE is an all-electric hatchback. From mid-2012, ZOE – a true mass-market vehicle – is poised to become the flagship of Renault’s “innovation for all” drive and concern for the environment, as well as being an ambassador for the brand’s new design strategy

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