The Zoe

* Three models on way by 2012 * Car/scooter, supermini and family saloon * All driven in concept model form...

The Zoe

Renault will build a supermini-sized electric car and it may well be called Zoe, but it won't look like this. The concept car is a showcase of how electric powertrains give designers far greater freedom over the look of cars and what could be put in them.

Take the rear seats: the backrests swing into the side panels rather than folding down, while the windows and roof are butterfly sections that make it easier for people to get in and out.

The inspiration for the car came from Japanese gardens, apparently. The seats are shaped like smooth stones. The climate control system can hydrate or detox passengers, or fill the cabin with relaxing or stimulating scents.

Rear-facing cameras and a display in the rear-view mirror replace external mirrors.

The roof shields occupants from extremes of heat and cold while recovering energy through its photovoltaic cells. The front and rear glass has protective polyurethane gel sections that emit a blue-tinted light.

No, we won't see any of this appearing in cars on a showroom floor, either, but the power system is the same as that in the Fluence, albeit not as close to being road-ready as far as refinement and smoothness are concerned.

But, then again, the real thing's not due until 2012, so there's time to sort that.

Electric Renaults driven
[Electric Renaults on video]( mms://