Electric driving lessons from Renault

* Teach drivers to get most from EVs * To help ease range anxiety * Greener engines and transmissions, too...

Electric driving lessons from Renault

Renault is planning to set up special training courses to help buyers of its electric vehicles get the most from them.

Although the all-electric cars will produce no tailpipe emissions, Renault believes it is important to teach eco-driving techniques to owners so that they can cover as many miles as possible on a single charge.

Range anxiety
So-called range anxiety is one of the major obstacles to overcome if people are to be persuaded to drive electric vehicles, Renault believes.

The economy driving schools will be an extension of those Renault already runs in France and the Benelux countries for business users of its petrol and diesel models. They are soon to be extended to the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and Spain, with the UK and Portugal likely to be added in 2011.

Renault's first electric cars will come to the UK next year. There will be a battery-powered version of the Kangoo light delivery van and a four-wheeled covered scooter-like vehicle called the Twizy.

The Fluence and Zoe
The real electric breakthrough will come in 2012, however, when Renault introduces a compact saloon called the Fluence and its first designed-from-scratch EV, a supermini to be badged Zoe.

We've just driven a prototype of the Fluence and it feels close to being showroom-ready. It has a smooth and silent powertrain, strong acceleration from standstill and the most consistent braking action of any EV we've so far tried.

Electrification is just one arm of Renault's plan to be best-in-class for CO2 across its range. New petrol and diesel engines and transmissions will play an important role, as will greener factories and greater end-of-life recycling.

Greener engines and transmissions
Next month, a double-clutch semi-automatic gearbox will be offered with 1.5 dCi 100 versions of the Megane and Scenic. It offers the convenience of a fully auto gearbox while helping to ensure emissions are the same as a manual 114g/km in the Megane and 130g/km with the Scenic. Renault says this equates to a 20% improvement in fuel efficiency over a conventional auto.

We've tried it in a Scenic and it's one of the smoothest transmissions of its type we've encountered, with an emphasis on comfort driving that makes it ideally suited to a family car such as a compact MPV.

Next year there will be a new 128bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine, replacing the 1.9 of similar output, but with 5% greater fuel efficiency. It is due to appear in a variety of models.

Renault has also pledged to expand its range of small turbocharged TCe petrol engines to help lower CO2. There will be three- and four-cylinder units from 0.9 to 1.2 litres. Renault recently signed a deal with Daimler to make them available for a new generation of Smarts.