Re­nault pushes mes­sage

The French don’t want to be left be­hind, writes NEIL McDON­ALD

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

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.

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