Renault pushes message
The French don’t want to be left behind, writes NEIL McDONALD
ITS green message is better known overseas but Renault Australia has plans for its Megane electric vehicle. It wants to showcase the zero-emission car here to show consumers the company hasn’t been caught napping in these new-technology times, and believes the Megane EV would work well in neighbourhood ‘‘car share’’ rental programs in Sydney and Melbourne.
Managing director Rudi Koenig believes EV cars are perfect for these schemes, which are similar to bicycle rental systems whereby people can rent bikes for trips around cities.
Koenig believes that in the past year, the electric-car story has been dominated by Japanese and North American carmakers. He wants to remind consumers that work on the Megane EV is well advanced.
A version of the small sedan is expected to be on sale next year in Denmark and Israel, two small countries in which geographical range is not an issue.
Renault says it will deliver similar performance from a petrol 1.6-litre Megane.
The company expects the EV to cost the same as a turbo-diesel, which is about $3000 more than a petrol-engined version.
The Megane EV is part of a collaboration between Renault-Nissan and venture company Better Place, which also is helping roll out electric-vehicle infrastructure in several markets, including Australia.
Initially the infrastructure is likely to be centred on Sydney and Melbourne.
Better Place is working with AGL Energy and Macquarie Capital Group to develop a recharging grid for electric cars.
Renault and Nissan have been at the forefront of the push for electric cars. The recently unveiled Renault bebop concept van and Nissan’s EV-02 car share components.
The bebop is powered by a 44kW electric motor that winds out to 12,000revs and has a top speed of 130km/h.
The concept’s lithium-ion battery pack comes from a Nissan-NEC joint venture.
Nissan says these batteries have 90 per cent greater efficiency than petrol engines and are designed to deliver between 80 and 100 per cent of their peak capacity for at least six years.
BETTER Place is working with several battery makers to develop new lithiumion batteries for a range of Renault and Nissan vehicles expected to be on sale by 2012.
Lithium-ion batteries store significantly more energy and generate twice the power per unit volume of the nickel metal hydride batteries used in many hybrids.
Renault is also working on a recycling program to make sure the new-generation batteries can be disposed of safely.
The first mass-market electric cars are likely to reach Australia by 2012.
Mitsubishi Australia already has cleared the way for its i-MIEV to be on our roads next year. Minor players Blade Electric Vehicles is already building a $42,990 Hyundai Getz running on batteries.
GM-Holden is pushing hard to get its hybrid ‘‘range-extender’’ Volt on sale here by 2012.
Toyota, too, will supplement its Prius hybrid next year with the locally built Camry hybrid, and a plug-in Prius is planned.
Two of the biggest issues facing EV cars are their short range and recharge time.
Newer ‘‘fast-charge’’ systems slash downtime and the next-generation batteries are pushing the range beyond 150km.