While many questions remain about the acceptance of electric vehicles among buyers, there is no doubt that the auto industry is increasingly turning to them as a way of offsetting emissions of traditional internal combustion engines that have dominated vehicle powertrains for more than a century.
The latest evidence of the growing electric vehicle trend comes from Renault, which unveiled four electric concept cars at Frankfurt that clearly are the precursors of an entire range of Renault “Z.E.” electric vehicles. These EVs will start arriving on the market in less than two years’ time. The Z.E. stands for zero emissions, and is a misnomer because it does not take into account how the electricity that powers EVs is generated.
From 2011, Renault will progressively roll out four electric vehicles, including two derivatives of production vehicles now on sale. First will be an electric version of Fluence, which will initially appear in Israel and subsequently Europe. The second will be an electric version of Renault Kangoo Express, which is intended primarily for commercial fleet and business use.
Renault says that the electric vehicle line will then expand to cover other segments, with two vehicles that will be purpose-built as electric vehicles: The Twizy Z.E. Concept, which targets “urban mobility.” While the fourth vehicle will use some of the cues of the Zoe Z.E. Concept, and go on sale at the beginning of 2012. The four-seat, B-car-size Zoe Z.E. is billed as a multi-purpose daily driver for built-up areas.
“This range of electric vehicles will bring environmental soundness at a price everyone can afford,” said Carlos Ghosn, the head of Renault, at the media preview during press days at the Frankfurt Motor Show. “In other words, our cars’ purchase price and utilization costs will be similar or better than comparable diesel vehicles in Europe.”
It was not immediately clear if the pricing claim of a purchase price of roughly 20% higher than equivalent gasoline models included the massive subsidies of up to $7,500 per vehicle that European makers are quietly lobbying for. Most automakers tell TheDetroitBureau.com that to make EVs viable to more than the fringe audience they now attract such subsidies are needed.