Nissan-Renault plan for electric cars at Olympics

Published: 25 February 2009

London’s streets will be abuzz with Renault and Nissan electric vehicles during the Olympics, if the alliance pulls off an audacious bid to showcase zero emission cars at the 2012 games.

Renault boss Patrick Pelata pitched the idea to Boris Johnson, the city’s mayor, during the recent world economic forum in Davos. ‘We have started discussions. We want to be a part of the 2012 Olympics, if there’s a way,’ Pelata told CAR Online.

In three years, Pelata expects Renault to have a three-strong electric vehicle (EV) range: the Kangoo van; ‘a big saloon that would make a good taxi’ and a Clio-sized EV. With Nissan also involved, as many as 4000 vehicles could create a mobile billboard for the alliance’s electric vehicle initiative.

Won't electric vehicle R&D be credit crunched?

While the alliance is cutting back some R&D expenditure, its electric vehicle programme is ringfenced and the workload shared. Nissan is
leading the charge in battery development and brake energy regeneration, while Renault is working on the battery recharging process. And both companies are working on individual electric motor technologies. ‘We may need three different types of motor, depending on the size of car,’ predicts Pelata.

Renault-Nissan believes electric vehicle users will lease their batteries, probably from energy suppliers rather than car makers. Pelata’s vision is for EV drivers to pull into fuel stations and switch their battery packs in four minutes – around the time it takes to fuel a regular car. This infrastructure is unlikely to be in place or 2012, so French energy supplier EDF is on board with a view to supplying a London recharging network.

The small supermini EV

Pelata expects the Clio-sized EV to have a 150km range, suitable for 30% of typical car use. And although the high-tech kit will cost €5000 more than an equivalent diesel supermini, Renault calculates that tax breaks and fuel savings will pay back the premium for anyone covering in excess of 15,000km a year.

While the Olympics is three years away, Renault will show an electric production car at the September 2009’s Frankfurt motor show, with a limited number of vehicles hitting the market in 2010.

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By Phil McNamara

Editor-in-chief of CAR magazine

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