Renault remains committed to electric vehicles, according to chief operating officer Carlos Tavares – and the company expects its global EV sales to more than double to 36,000 units this year.
“We are the leaders in EV sales and we intend to stay so,” said Tavares. “We are the only manufacturer with four EV models. Our European market share as an automotive company, including Renault and Dacia, is nine per cent, but our share of the zero-emissions vehicles market is 51 per cent.”
Tavares acknowledged the growing amount of manufacturers committing to plug-in hybrids as opposed to full electric vehicles, but felt such a solution was only applicable to higher-priced luxury cars and posed significant financial challenges for manufacturers and consumers alike.
“There is nothing wrong with plug-in hybrids, except for the fact that if you look at the [financial] bill of materials for them, it is quite obvious that the cost of a plug-in hybrid is much more than a single-energy powertrain,” he said.
“The fact that you have an internal combustion engine coupled with an electric vehicle powertrain gives you the kind of autonomy you would like from your D-segment family car.
“But you have two powertrains in one car, in an industry where most of the manufacturers are financially in the red and the best are making five per cent cash operating profit. So how do you put two powertrains in one car without translating it into additional cost and therefore additional pricing? That’s the challenge.
"That’s why this story is becoming a very polarised one. High-end flagship vehicles and SUVS are going for plug-in hybrids, whereas the commuting cars are moving to pure EV because you need to keep the price competitive.
“This is going to have an impact on pricing. For the high-end the price is perhaps not going to be a big deal, but certainly you are not going to see plug-in hybrid [technology] in compact cars.”
However, Tavares added that he didn’t discount Renault one day adding a plug-in hybrid to its model line-up: “I have nothing negative against that technology, but I will only do things that make sense and are profitable for the company.”