We know that Alpine, Renault's sports car brand, is going fully electric. The firm has plans for battery-powered sporty EVs in SUV form (based on the new Renault Megane E-Tech), hot hatch form (based on the new Renault 5 E-Tech), and sports car form.
Based on the existing A110
It's the last one that Alpine is dropping hints about here, with the E-ternité concept car being shown off at this weekend's French Grand Prix. It is an existing A110 sports car (literally one of the best cars we've driven) with a battery conversion and its roof panel removed. Maybe that's being a bit too simplistic...
The E-ternité name is a reference to Renault CEO Luca De Meo's statement that he wants to "electrify Alpine to preserve its name for all eternity" and is the brand's first step on the road to full electrification. It's also a 60th-anniversary celebration of the original A110 sports car and a first hint of how Alpine is going to square the circle of adding heavy battery power to what is a light, agile, fun sports car.
The E-ternité's battery pack, which comes from the Megane E-Tech, is actually pretty light - it weighs 392kg, while thanks to some weight saving in other areas, the whole E-ternité weighs just 258kg more than the standard petrol-powered A110.
The gearbox has been modified too. Alpine didn't want to go down the single reduction gear route used by most EVs, as that would have meant too much compromise between high speed and acceleration. So the A110's seven-speed DCT dual-clutch box has been modified to handle the electric motor's instant torque output.
Similar performance and range
That torque is rated at 300Nm, along with 242hp. That's a little less than the standard petrol turbo engine produces, but the improved torque response means that from 0-100km/h, the E-ternité is pretty well neck-and-neck with the standard A110 do it in 4.5 seconds while the regular petrol version takes 4.4 seconds.
The E-ternité's top speed is 250km/h - very high for an EV - which is just slightly slower than the standard A110's 260km/h (although there is a sportier A110 S that will get to 280km/h).
It's the range that's potentially most impressive. Alpine estimates that a standard petrol A110 with a full tank of juice has a roughly 550km touring range. The E-ternité is reckoned to be able to do 420km on a full charge of its 60kWh battery. That's better than decent if Alpine can replicate it in the real world.
Lift-out roof panel
To make everything just a bit more thrilling, the E-ternité is also the first convertible Alpine. That was trickier than it sounds, as the regular A110's roof is a key part of the car's aluminium structure and cutting off the whole roof would have made the car pretty much fall apart. Alpine has gotten around this with a targa-style arrangement, a glorified sunroof consisting of two carbon-injected panels that lift out.
Inside, the cabin is more or less unchanged from that of the current A110, bar some mods to the instruments and the central touchscreen. Will Alpine actually put the E-ternité into production? The answer seems to be a qualified yes - there's a slim chance that a handful of production cars will be made to kick-start Alpine's electric journey. Far more important, of course, is that Alpine is working with British sports car brand Lotus on a bespoke EV sports car chassis, which will underpin the brand's first ground-up EV sports car. Given the impressive weight and performance figures of this E-ternité concept, we can't wait to see what Alpine will do next.