Renault’s family of electric cars remains on target for UK showrooms. The French firm this week confirmed fresh details about its plan to become market-leaders in volume-selling electric cars, by launching a devoted battery-powered family saloon, supermini, city car and light commercial van in the UK over the next 18 months.
The production and sales plan
The cars will all be built in Europe for the European market: the Twizy supermini at Renault’s Valladolid plant in Spain, the Zoe supermini at Flins in France (home of the Clio), the Kangoo van at Villiers-Saint-Frederic in France, and the Fluence saloon in Bursa, Turkey. The Kangoo will launch in the UK first, in mid-2011, with the other three passenger models following in 2012.
Renault’s electric breed won’t be available at every UK Renault dealer. The firm will be offering the sales and service franchise business for its EVs “to those dealers that want it” over the coming months.
Sales estimates for the EVs are modest, but the cars are expected to account for 10 per cent of Renault’s global sales volume between them by 2020.
In the UK they will be priced at roughly the level of an equivalent diesel-powered car, once the government’s £5000 ‘low carbon incentive’ is factored in. That implies a UK retail tag of around £19k for the Fluence Z.E. and £14k for the Zoe Z.E.
The government’s EV discount won’t be offered on the Twizy Z.E. because it will be registered as a scooter-like ‘quadracycle’ rather than a car. It’s expected to cost about £6000 when it comes to market in 2012.
The ownership model
Unlike alliance partner Nissan, Renault is sticking to its plan to lease the batteries for its EVs to customers rather than selling them outright with the car.
“Doing that removes any worries about warranties or battery failures,” explained a Renault spokesperson. “It will make for much better residual values for the cars too. We still expect to be able to make overall ownership of an EV cheaper than a ‘normal’ car once both fuel and maintenance costs are accounted for.”
Renault expects the lease for the batteries to start from about £70 a month for low-mileage users. An overnight battery charge is likely to cost between £1.60 and £2.50, depending on your domestic power tariff. A fully charged battery should be good for 100 miles of range in the Fluence, Zoe and Kangoo; more on exclusively urban routes. The Twizy will have a 60-mile range, but will also cost less to charge.
However, the battery lease is likely to be more costly for those doing higher mileages, or who want greater flexibilty of ownership. More intensive charging and discharging of Renault’s lithium ion batteries shortens their life, and so users who do more than about 15,000 miles a year will have to pay more. Those who want a ‘pay-as-you-go’ contract that would allow them to sell the car on at any given point will also pay more than those willing to sign up for a fixed term.
And how will Renault know if you pretended to sell your car to avoid the battery lease costs, transfer ownership to someone else, but continue to use it? “The cars will come with GPRS transponders that tell us when they’re being used,” our source confirmed. “We’ll also be able to disable them if the relevant lease bill isn’t being paid.”
The battery life issue
Renault claims that one of its battery packs should be capable of providing 80 per cent of its original range at eight years old, and after 125,000 miles.
At that point, it expects EV owners to simply sign a new deal on a brand new battery pack, and nip along to their local dealer to have it fitted. Old ones could still have five years of useful life if recycled by Renault.
The company does expect regular high-voltage ‘fast’ charges to reduce the operational life of its batteries, however: “not by 50 per cent,” our man explained, “but possibly by 25 or 30.”