Renault to roll out E-Tech initiative in Brussels
Recent concept cars have shown that Renault is no stranger to innovation, nor is it afraid to look at fresh approaches to solve future mobility conundrums. The French OEM has been working on the electrification of its range for over a decade, with the introduction of bespoke EV models such as the Twizy and Zoe—proving success stories that sit alongside its traditional ICE (internal combustion engine)-powered lineup.
With that in mind, the latest announcement from Renault might raise some eyebrows due to its perceived conservative nature—hybrid versions of two existing models (Clio and Captur) that kick off the company’s E-Tech range. Delve deeper into the manufacturer’s goals for the next three years and you find that it is all part of a wider, cross-propulsion plan that will appeal to the widest possible number of drivers and users.
“In our October 2017-announced ‘Drive The Future’ mid-term plan, we stated eight new EVs and 12 electrified models during the specified period,” said Matthew Bendall, Head of Public Relations for Renault in the UK, referring to the initiative that takes the manufacturer up to 2022. “There will be more to come during that timeframe including 2020, which will see a Mégane E-Tech version launched.”
When the new Clio was launched in 2019, it was designed to show Renault’s plans for the future of autonomous, electric, and connected mobility. The introduction of the E-Tech version—at January’s Brussels Motor Show—was the first demonstration on what powertrain options would be available beyond the traditional ICE versions.
“Renault is an EV pioneer and has a range of affordable EVs,” said Bendall. “The E-Tech versions are complementary and suit different customer needs and price points.” In other words, in the case of the Clio version, it sits neatly within the range without impeding—or taking potential sales away from—the electric ZOE model, which is a similar size.
The E-Tech powertrains (standard hybrid for the Clio and plug-in for the Captur) were developed and patented by Renault Engineering. Derived from what was housed with the EOLAB concept car from Paris 2014, a number of components have been sourced from the Renault-Nissan Alliance, such as the 1.6-L naturally aspirated gasoline engine that has been reworked specifically for the usage. The engine is mated to two electric motors—one of which is a high-voltage starter generator—and a multi-mode clutch-less gearbox. According to Renault, the association of both electric motors and the gearbox optimizes for smooth gear changes--the type of architecture that is known for better fuel efficiency and comes straight from the Renault F1 Team’s vast experience.
Renault has moved in the same direction as many other manufacturers and built modularity into its plans. The hybrid and plug-in drivetrains used in the Renault E-Tech models can be easily integrated into the new CMF-B architecture, a modular base that that was designed from the outset to take on electric powertrains. As such, the extra components can fit into the engine bay of the Clio.
The actual battery sizes depend on application. In the Clio, the E-Tech has a 1.2-kW·h battery that delivers reductions in fuel use and CO₂ emissions, for up to 80% of urban driving time when in electric model. The Captur E-Tech gets a 9.8-kW·h battery that gives a theoretical range of up to 30 mi (48 km) on the WLTP cycle when in electric mode.
The E-Tech range debuts Multi-Sense technology from Renault, which is designed to manage when electric power, gasoline power, or both is used, for maximum efficiency. Also within Multi-Sense is E-Save, which limits the use of the electric motor and draws power from the combustion engine, a process that saves up to 40% of battery power and allowing electric power to be stored.
Beyond the hybrid lineup, other forms of mobility are still very much in the works.
“We have Level 2 autonomy available on our latest Clio and Captur models and have fully working Level 4 and Level 5 vehicles on test in the real world,” confirmed Bendall. “In addition, our Drive the Future midterm plan said we’d have 15 models with autonomous driving features by end 2022.”
The groundwork for this product offensive can be seen in the likes of the Symbioz concept as well as work that has already been done within Paris-Saclay Autonomous Lab projects.
“The lessons from the Symbioz and the EZ- trilogy of cars is being put into our future production models, and we have committed to a robotaxi vehicle by the end of the plan,” concluded Bendall.