Friday, July 11, 2008

Renault-Nissan to build electric car in Denmark

Renault-Nissan boss Carlos GhosnRenault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn believes electric cars have a bright future

Denmark looks set to become the second nation to persuade drivers to switch to electric motoring, writes Maurice Glover. Following the deal signed earlier this year with Israel, Renault-Nissan and infrastructure provider Project Better Place are now discussing the supply of electric cars and support systems with Danish government officials.

"They are still to sign the documents, but they have made it clear they want to operate a similar arrangement as Israel. This is good news because it shows how governments are beginning to realise that oil is starting to become scarce. We're confident others will follow in due course," said Renault strategic environmental planning vice president Alice de Brauer.

Renault will make electric versions of the present Kangoo light_van and next-generation Megane hatchback models be available in both countries by 2011. "As a vehicle using existing architecture that has to be adapted, the Kangoo will not be a particularly good example of electric power, but we are putting some new ideas into the Megane.

Renault KangooRenault Kangoo

"However, we are starting to develop a specific platform for electric cars for introduction in 2012," she said.

According to de Brauer, the new platform will initially be used for a Megane-sized family car but is being designed to carry a range of variants.

"We have yet to decide where this new model will be built, but it should be reached by the end of this year, when the business plan has been completed. The view is that if Denmark agrees to make a commitment to electric cars and other countries follow with tax concessions that encourage people to make the switch, we could be building up to two million units per year."

Speaking at an event in France to showcase the company's environmental engineering developments, de Brauer claimed Renault was poised to make the breakthrough in the mass production of electric vehicles and declared: "Others will follow, but we want to be the first in this important new market."

Said electric vehicle project director Serge Yoccoz: "By 2020, between 15 and 20 per cent of family cars could be powered by electricity, but this does depend on having the infrastructure and long-term commitment on fiscal incentives. Israel will cut its 80 per cent tax rate on cars to less than 20 per cent if they are powered by electricity and Denmark is prepared to be equally generous.

"Research has proved that the average European motorist drives less than 60km per day and only 25 per cent travel more than 100km per day. More costly petrol is making electric power a more attractive alternative - but the problem of CO2 emissions, not the high cost of oil, is the real driving force behind this project."

Added de Brauer: "Mass production of electric cars will provide a good foundation for the launch of the fuel cell to power the vehicles that families need for holidays and longer journeys. Our problem is that this technology remains too expensive to contemplate for the immediate future and I think it will be at least 2020 before the fuel cell can be brought to market and 2030 before it reaches full-scale commercialisation.

"For the moment, the success of the electric car is critical and it is our aim for motorists to be able to rent the batteries for our models so their running costs will be equal to cars that use petrol.

"But we are also working on the possibility of finding another life for the battery after four or five years, when it starts to become less efficient for powering a car. We think it could have a further lifecycle of eight or 10 years in the home and are working on a domestic solar charging station that would power the battery to drive appliances such as washing machines," she said.

Renault used its environmental event to announce a new high-output, super-economy petrol engine for some of its most popular models.

Renault Megane GTRenualt Megane GT

Boasting a 1.8-litre power level and 16 per cent improvements in economy and emissions, the company's next-generation 1.4-litre unit will debut in the new Megane compact car range at the Paris Motor Show in October.

Fitted with a low-inertia turbocharger, the 16-valve TCe 130 has been honed to deliver torque of 190Nm and will replace the normally-aspirated two-litre engine fitted in the current Megane.

Like other manufacturers, the French firm is anticipating that next year's tougher Euro5 exhaust emission regulations will prompt higher interest in more efficient petrol engines.

"But before that, the recent round of fuel price increases have made gasoline more attractive against diesel. It is a coincidence, but we couldn't have chosen a better time to launch this development and we are expecting demand for petrol and diesel power to be more equally balanced in future as fiscal changes further increase the viability of petrol power," said engineer Stephane Guilan.

"Our view is that replacing larger engines with smaller, more efficient units is one of the most logical ways of putting the brake on fuel consumption and helping drivers cope with spiralling motoring costs.

"We have already proved this in diesel by substituting a 110bhp, 1.5-litre dCi unit for the 115bhp, 2.2-litre motor that used to drive the Laguna, a move that has given us a 60g/km gain in emissions along with fuel savings of 2.3 lts/100km. Now we can repeat this with our new petrol engine," he said.

Manufactured at the Valladolid plant in Spain and driving through a six-speed manual gearbox, the 130 joins the 1.2-litre TCe 100 motor which replaced the 1.7-litre petrol engine in the Clio range last year. Work is now under way on the rid and final member of the TCe engine family, thought to have a 1.6-litre displacement.

Renault also used the event to show Nox Trap, its new post-combustion system to reduce diesel pollutant emissions. Based on a chemical process that captures nitrogen oxides, then converts them into neutral gas every few minutes, the trap is covered by 36 patents. It will be tested on fleets of 2.0 dCi Espace models in France and Germany later this year.

[Source : Just-Auto]


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