Renault focuses on EVs and engine downsizing

  • 30-Apr-2009 04:11 EDT
Geneva09Renault Scenic030309-3--e-ren.jpg

Renault's new Grand Scenic compact MPV is a seven-seater based on the New Megane.

Renault underlined its medium to long-term powertrain strategy in addition to introducing several models at the recent Geneva Motor Show.

Renault’s future powertrain strategy centers on three main areas: the development of electric motors (the company aims to become the industry leader in the area of mass-market electric vehicles), a new generation of turbocharged gasoline and diesel engines, and new automatic transmissions.

Patrick Pélata, Renault’s Chief Operating Officer, told AEI that the company would have a range of electric vehicles by 2012 that would appeal to 30% of the buying public. To help achieve this, Renault’s R&D budget will be around €2.1 billion this year.

Renault is planning to have at least three electric cars in production at the end of the present recession, although no date is specified. These are likely to be an electric version of the Kangoo, a sedan, and an electric model about the size of the present Clio.

Although the Renault-Nissan Alliance has a broad R&D program, Pélata is not an enthusiast for hybrid or fuel cell solutions at present. But engine convergence (HCCI) technology is on the research agenda.

Renault executives regard all-electric vehicles as an inevitable answer to environmental and associated legislative requirements. What the company describes as "significant" progress has been made on lithium-ion technology in terms of energy density, safety, durability, and cost reductions.

The Alliance has a joint venture with Automotive Electric Supply Corp. (AESC) to develop the batteries, which it sees as leading to the possibility of attractive, pleasant-to-drive electric vehicles with "sufficient" range. The power span on which focus is placed at present is from 50 to 100 kW.

Renault’s gasoline engines are likely to be greatly downsized, with the small end comprising 0.9-L three-cylinder and 1.2-L four-cylinder units, all turbocharged.

Transmission developments include plans to introduce a twin-clutch within the next 12 months.

But Renault is adamant that its cars will still be highly enjoyable to drive—and it plans to reintroduce the sporty Gordini name to emphasize the fact.

Most significant of its new cars on display in Geneva was the Scenic compact MPV (multipurpose vehicle) range. Following on the success of first- and second-generation Scenics, the latest generation, a member of the New Megane family, has been totally restyled.

Produced as the Scenic (five seats) and larger Grand Scenic (seven seats), it is available with a wide choice of gasoline and diesel powertrains, three of which emit less than 140 g/km of CO2. It has the same standard of safety as that claimed by the New Megane five-door, which achieved the joint highest ever EuroNCAP crash test rating.

Packaging was a design priority, and knee room for second-row passengers in the Grand Scenic is up 40 mm (1.6 in) vs. the Scenic. Cabin stowage totals 92 L (3.2 ft³) including four underfloor compartments, up to four underseat drawers, six map pockets, an 11-L (0.39-ft³) glove box, and 9 L (0.32 ft³) of storage in the center console.

A backup camera is fitted and the car has a customizable TFT (thin-film transistor) color screen. Suspension is identical to the New Megane including MacPherson struts at the front linked to a horned subframe to minimize lateral movement. The rear includes a programmed deflection closed section torsion beam. Steering is electric.

New members of the Megane range are the Sport Tourer (station wagon) and high-performance Renaultsport 250 coupe. The latter is powered by a new-generation 2.0-L twin-scroll turbo gasoline engine producing 186 kW (249 hp) at 5500 rpm and maximum torque of 340 N·m (251 lb·ft), 80% of which is available from 1900 rpm.

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