Frankfurt 2009: Renault goes electric

* Various electric concepts * Production models confirmed * On sale by 2011...

Frankfurt 2009: Renault goes electric

Electric future
Electric vehicles dominate the Renault stand at the Frankfurt motor show.

The company has no less than four concept cars on display, all which have some form of production future.

Renault has committed itself to begin widescale electric vehicle production from 2011 and along with partner Nissan to become the world leader in bringing them to a mass market.

What's on show?
Renault's Frankfurt motor show stars include a two-seater that is little bigger than a scooter, a Kangoo that's likely to go on sale as an electric van, a supermini-sized car and a compact saloon.

It's also likely that the production versions of all four will make it to Britain.

Renault plans to build electric versions of existing models as well as bespoke offerings based on a platform it has created with Nissan.

The Nissan Leaf is the Japanese company's first model to come from it.

The Renault FluenceRenault Fluence
Renault's electric future will be spearheaded by a battery-powered version of the Fluence, the Megane-sized saloon it has just announced for sale primarily in eastern Mediterranean countries.

The electric version is particularly important for Israel, which has an aggressive clean vehicle expansion programme, but it will also be sold throughout Europe, including the UK.

Renault claims it's more than a runabout for townies. The Fluence has a 100-mile range and offers three different recharging options, including three-minute battery swaps at a network of roadside stations Renault plans to set up under its Quickdrop programme.

The Renault TwizyRenault Twizy
Twizy, on the other hand, is strictly an urban commuter vehicle in effect, a two-seater four-wheeled scooter with a roof.

It looks a lot like BMW's C1 motorcycle from a few years ago.

Renault claims performance similar to a 125cc bike up to a maximum speed of around 45mph, and a range of just over 60 miles on a single charge.

The show car is the basis of a model that will go into production in 2012.

The Renault ZoeRenault Zoe
The car that caught even some Renault insiders by surprise is Zoe, a futuristic supermini that will be the basis of a commuter, school or shopping-run car from 2012.

Its scissor-type front doors, polyurethane gel shield over the front end and cameras in place of a rear screen sound a bit too far-fetched for production, but the 100-mile range and 90mph maximum speed are perfectly plausible for an electric car that can be driven from the suburbs into the city and back every day.

As with the Fluence, Renault plans two quick-charge facilities among the three recharging options so that it can be taken on longer trips without fear of getting stranded.

The Renault Kangoo ZERenault Kangoo electric concept car
The electric Kangoo concept car is based on the current production vehicle and aims to make a zero-emissions van available to public utilities and private businesses that do lots of short trips in urban and suburban areas. It has a similar range to the Zoe but a slower, limited top speed.

The show car's body acts like a thermos flask, with a sandwich of air that keeps the interior cool in summer and warm in winter. There are also solar panels in the roof that power all-round cameras, allowing the car to get by without large door mirrors that normally create fuel-wasting drag.

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