Renault has confirmed that it's not only pushing ahead with its electric car plans but actually ramping them up quite a bit. The star of Renault's electric push is unquestionably the new electric Renault 5 hatchback, seen already in concept form, but now confirmed for production.
Cheaper batteries, cheaper EVs
Not only confirmed for production, but confirmed to be affordable - Renault boss Luca De Meo expects that the 5 will cost around one third less than the current Zoe when it comes to Ireland in 2023, or thereabouts. If that cost reduction shakes out, that could see the electric 5 cost as little as €18,000.
The electric 5 is going to be far from the only new battery star from Renault, though. We know already about the all-electric new Megane E-Tech, which takes the old family-favourite hatchback and turns it into a low-slung crossover, but Renault is also now talking openly about a new model, currently called the '4ever'. That is almost certainly an electric re-imagining of the classic Renault 4, taking inspiration from the updated 5.
The original Renault 4 is celebrating its 60th birthday this year, and Renault has been hitting the retro-campaign trail with lots of nostalgic content to stir up enthusiasm for a revival. Now, it seems to be happening, and the thinking is that the 4 will be, as was the original, an upright, practical family hauler - sort of a crossover, but more useful and adaptable than that title might imply.
All-electric Alpine range
Those two will be among ten new all-electric models launched by Renault between now and 2025. Seven will be badged as Renaults. The other three? Well, some of those will be the new all-electric Alpine models. De Meo has confirmed that the Alpine "dream garage" unveiled in January will become a reality, starting in 2024. A shadowy image released by Alpine shows the silhouettes of three cars which look to be a low-lying replacement for the current A110; a coupe-backed SUV - sort of like a French Porsche Macan - and a hot version of that all-electric 5, which might just be the new car we're now most excited about.
There will also, of course, be fully electric Dacias, but all of these new electric models will be built on two shared platforms, which Renault calls CMF-EV and CMF-BEV. The CMF-EV platform is designed for C and D-segment cars - think Megane up to Laguna sizes, and it's this which will underpin the likes of the new Megane E-Tech (and, of course, Nissan's upcoming Aryia - don't forget that Renault and Nissan are still firmly conjoined). Maximum battery ranges for models based on the CMF-EV platform are in the region of 580km. Renault claims that the CMF-EV platform has: "A low centre of gravity and optimal weight distribution, a very low steering ratio allowing quick vehicle responses and a multi-link rear suspension setup."
The CMF-BEV platform is for smaller vehicles - Renault's heartland - and will underpin the 5, the 4, and the next generation of Zoe. Cars based on this chassis will have a maximum range of around 400km, with the emphasis on affordability, and will also get Renault's trick Plug & Charge system that automatically pays for your charging.
Renault reckons that it's been able to cut the cost of its batteries in half in the past ten years, and expects to do the same again in the coming decade. Part of that is concentrating its production in one area - for that super-cool new Renault 5, the car, its batteries, and its motors will all be made in northern France, which is equally an important consideration for Renault's unions.
The company is also working with French startup Whynot on a new automotive axial flux e-motor, which is designed for use in hybrid applications, and which can save as much as 2.5g/km of CO2, depending on the model. Renault reckons it will be the first car maker to produce axial flux e-motors on a large scale from 2025.
Compact electric components
The French giant is also concentrating on making electric components smaller and simpler - such as integrating the inverter, DC-DC and onboard charger (OBC) into a unique box produced in-house, and doing much the same with the e-motor, the reducer and the power electronics. Both of these innovations cut costs and bulk, but they're cutting edge - designed around 800-volt super-fast charging systems.
To power all of this electric innovation, Renault is working with Envision AESC, which will build a battery 'gigafactory' in Douai, in northern France. This factory will turn out 24GWh worth of batteries by 2030, and these batteries will have a new chemistry, which Renault reckons is both more cost-effective, and yet which can deliver as much as 20 per cent more range. Oh, and they'll be easier to recycle too - something Renault is taking very seriously, turning its giant Flins factory, just outside Paris, from making cars into stripping them - and their batteries - down for reuse. There'll be another 'gigafacotry', this time combining with French start-up Verkor, and that's all part of Renault's vision to create a vast 'ElectriCity' complex spread across the Douai, Maubeuge and Ruitz areas, bringing an estimated 4,500 jobs to the region.
"Today is a historic acceleration of Renault Group's EV strategy, made in Europe. By building our compact, efficient, high-tech electric ecosystem Renault ElectriCity in Northern France together with our e-powertrain MegaFactory in Normandy, we create the conditions of our competitiveness, at home. We'll train, invest and partner up with established and emerging best-in-class players in their fields: ST Micro-electronics, Whylot, LG Chem, Envision AESC, Verkor. Ten new electric models will be conceived and up to one million electric vehicles will be manufactured by 2030, from cost-efficient urban vehicles to sportier, higher-end ones. As well as efficiency, we bet on iconic designs such as the beloved R5 to bring the Renault touch to electrification, making electric cars popular", said Luca de Meo, CEO of Renault Group.