Elec­tric shock

Scan­dal hits Re­nault, write Paul Gover and Neil Dowl­ing

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

THE fu­ture of Re­nault’s elec­tric cars has been rocked by a spy scan­dal in­volv­ing three of its se­nior ex­ec­u­tives.

Re­nault is one of the world lead­ers in plug-in power, thanks in part to its global al­liance with Daim­ler of Ger­many and Nis­san, which has the bat­tery-pow­ered Leaf as its green flag­ship.

It is push­ing sev­eral fu­ture cars with elec­tric power, led by the great-look­ing DeZir coupe that starred for the brand at last year’s Paris Mo­tor Show.

But its technology could have been leaked in a case of in­dus­trial es­pi­onage that has out­raged many peo­ple in France, led by In­dus­try Min­is­ter Eric Bes­son.

He says the au­to­mo­tive scan­dal has led France to the brink of ‘‘eco­nomic war’’ and is also an­gry be­cause Re­nault re­ceives pub­lic money for some projects, in­clud­ing its elec­tric ve­hi­cle pro­gram.

Re­nault and Nis­san spend an es­ti­mated $400 mil­lion a year on EV work as part of a to­tal re­search- and-devel­op­ment bud­get of $5.5 bil­lion. In­ves­ti­ga­tion into the elec­tric technology leak be­gan more than four months ago and Bloomberg News re­ports that the high­est rank­ing of the three sus­pended ex­ec­u­tives is Michel Balt­haz­ard, vice-pres­i­dent for ad­vance en­gi­neer­ing and a mem­ber of Re­nault’s man­age­ment com­mit­tee.

Balt­haz­ard, a 30-year vet­eran, be­gan his ca­reer at Re­nault in 1980 in the body en­gi­neer­ing depart­ment.

The em­ploy­ees are now be­ing given the chance to re­spond to the ac- cu­sa­tions, be­fore any fur­ther ac­tion is taken.

The es­pi­onage al­le­ga­tion comes as Re­nault plans to launch an­other three elec­tric ve­hi­cles this year as part of a plan to lead real-world sales.

‘‘The Re­nault-Nis­san Al­liance is de­vel­op­ing a com­plete range of 100 per cent elec­tric pow­er­trains with power rat­ings of be­tween 15kW and 100kW,’’ it says. Elec­tric ve­hi­cles planned for this year in­clude the Kan­goo Ex­press ZE van, the Flu­ence mid-size sedan and the Twizy small car.

In 2012, Re­nault plans to ex­pand that elec­tric line-up with a new city car be­fore tak­ing elec­tric power to all of its ve­hi­cle lines.

Fu­ture car: the snazzy-look­ing elec­tric DeZir.

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