Renault will launch a fully electric, battery-powered car in Europe in 2012.
Roughly the same size as a Clio supermini, the electric car is the product of joint development between Renault and its sister company, Nissan.
The unnamed five-seater will have a unique identity within the Renault/Nissan ranges, and project boss Serge Yoccoz promises it will be cheaper to run than a petrol car of equivalent power over its lifetime.
Other targets for the car's performance include a range of 100 miles in undemanding conditions, and 60 miles in congested traffic with auxiliary systems running, such as air-conditioning. A full recharge should take between four and eight hours.
Yoccoz says the car will accelerate from 0-60mph in less than 12 seconds and have a limited top speed of around 80 to 85mph.
He believes that although the car might be used in built-up metropolitan areas initially, its popularity will spread in the same way that mobile phone reception has extended out of cities.
Problems extending range
With a maximum range of 100 miles, however, the difficulty would be broaching the distances between, say, London and Liverpool.
One solution could be to offer quick exchanges where a depleted battery is replaced by a fully charged one.
Renault is working on electric Kangoo and Megane models for Israel, where the plan is to have 150 such exchange points and 250,000 charging points by 2011.
That's as many exchange points as conventional forecourts in Israel - if the same infrastructure logic were applied to the UK, you could take the electric Renault from Land's End to John O'Groats.
However, huge incentives for electric cars in Israel, where purchase tax is slashed from 70% to 10%, are helping to get this infrastructure in place faster than might happen in Europe.
Yuccoz insists that Renault won't adopt the approach used by Chevrolet with its Volt city car, which has a small, conventional, internal combustion engine to charge the battery - he says that the new car will be purely an electric vehicle.
The silent hum of an electric engine raises issues over safety, because pedestrians and other vulnerable road users may not hear the cars coming.
To combat this, Yoccoz says Renault is working on a 'gentle noise' that the new electric car will make to let other road users know it's on the way.
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