Renault EV concept can expand for longer trips
Renault has been no stranger to EV (electric vehicle) and future mobility concepts in recent years, and its planned Geneva show car was no exception.
The Morphoz is described as the French OEM’s latest vision of personal, shareable electric mobility for the future. As such, it boasted many innovative features including: conduction charging; the ability to change physical dimensions; and the use of AI (artificial intelligence) to help improve the user experience.
Much of these technologies are possible thanks, in part, to the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s new CMF-EV platform that will underpin future models from the brand. It features the now-common industry practice long wheelbase, short overhangs, and batteries beneath the floor, enabling the vehicle to be lower to the ground to improve performance.
In the case of the Morphoz, the new platform enables the car to increase or reduce in size, creating two modes: city and travel.
The city version is 4.40 m (14.4 ft) long, with a 2.73-m (9.0-ft) wheelbase and powered by a 40 kW·h battery that offers a range of up to 249 mi (400 km). Meanwhile, the travel version sees the car stretch to 4.80 m (15.7 ft) and the wheelbase grow to 2.93 m (9.6 ft). The extra space allows for additional battery capacity and a more spacious interior; Renault is claiming more legroom for the passengers and enough space for two extra suitcases to be stowed.
A specific “travel extender” battery pack provides an additional 50 kW·h of power, bringing the total capacity to 90 kW·h and a maximum range of 435 mi (700 km). The vehicle can be extended and converted to and from city or travel mode at a pre-determined battery station. During this process, the vehicle’s undertray opens and extra batteries can be installed in a matter of seconds. When the process is reversed, the batteries are returned and the car reverts to city status.
When Morphoz’s batteries are not being used to power the car, they remain in the car but have the ability to provide energy to other devices via smart charging technology and vehicle-to-grid knowhow. Returned batteries to the charging station after use in travel mode are used to power other vehicles or equipment such as self-service bicycle charging stations or street lighting.
The concept is also SAE Level 3 automated driving compliant thanks to the array of sensors and safety technologies on board, together with the connectivity elements between vehicles and between vehicle and infrastructure. Already having production cars providing Level 2 autonomy, Renault says it will move to the next stage when regulations permit. Before that, the company says it is committed to enhancing existing driving aids, in particular with the addition of connectivity to other vehicles and infrastructure to push forwards with predictive features.
Renault worked to ensure that everything in the concept revolves around passenger and human interactions. The AI is triggered before anyone enters the car, using sensors to detect the driver on approach and then activate a light sequence on the doors to indicate this recognition. A wave from the driver opens the door, automatically positions the seat, and adjusts interior lighting to the driver’s requirements. A holder connects the driver’s smartphone as the main data source. AI then uses data and information from the smartphone to perform specific tasks such as setting the navigation.
The AI can be managed in three ways: by touching the screens and console, by hand gestures, or by voice. In city mode, for daily travel, it converts the driver’s diary into the most efficient route by optimizing the itinerary and the time between appointments. In travel mode—going on a holiday, for example—it suggests points of interest, taking into account the desired time of arrival and remaining range of the car’s high-voltage battery.
Once onboard, all smartphones can be detected and passengers can consume three own specific media (music, TV, or entertainment), all relayed through the speakers in the seats. A journey planned at home will be automatically picked up by the navigation system, which will send a route of the last distance to be walked to the driver’s smartphone once the vehicle is parked close to the destination.
The changing nature of mobility means that Renault has integrated a number of social-led features into Morphoz. For example, the shared screen located between the seats on the center console enables passengers to scroll through the music library on one of their smartphones or play video games against each other.
The concept attempts to meet the needs of new communities that are developing around digital infrastructures, regenerative resources, and social well-being. As a single vehicle that can also serve the communal well-being, it suits new patterns of living in these urban communities, such as the co-living trend in housing.
The sharing capabilities of the concept vehicle are central to this philosophy—as seen by the removal of keys and starting cards. It also anticipates regulations that could soon insist on car-sharing for all cars. Connectivity is the enabler, with all elements able to be accessed via smartphone, which essentially becomes a digital key. Sharing with other people is therefore made easier, with drivers being given a code to unlock the vehicle if they wish to use it for a pre-determined period.