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Renault in no rush to join EV, plug-in race

POSTED BY Nigel Andretti ON 05 June 2015

FRENCH car maker Renault will not join the electric vehicles bandwagon until the costs are more meaningful for consumers.

stoll

Renault’s chief performance officer Jerome Stoll (left) said battery prices are still too high to make sense for mainstream car buyers and his company will wait before bringing any plug-in hybrid cars to market.

Renault has the means to make a plug-in hybrid car. It unveiled its Eolab concept, which is powered by a 75-hp 1.0-litre three-cylinder gasoline engine and a 6.7 kWh battery, at the Geneva auto show in March.

It has about 55km of electric only range. Stoll says the company will introduce a production version of the Eolab (below) “as soon as the market is ready”.

eolab

According to Green Car Industry, analysts say plug-in hybrids make more sense for premium automakers than for mass-market brands.

Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche are expanding their plug-in lineups. Volvo plans to offer plug-in variants of all its cars.

“Premium carmakers see plug-in hybrids as the key bridging technology between EVs and traditional powertrains, but the cost remains high,” said Tim Urquhart, an IHS Automotive analyst.

The issue is that electric storage batteries still cost considerably more than conventional gasoline engines.

Most analysts say battery prices will have to fall to around US$150 per kilowatt-hour (RM550) before they can compete head to head with conventional engines.

Urquhart thinks Renault’s strategy will pay off in the end.

“Plug-in hybrids might be expensive at the moment, but they will eventually come down in price and become affordable in the mainstream sector.”

He and other industry observers predict plug-in hybrids will outsell standard hybrids by 2019 and reach 1.2 million sales annually in Europe in 10 years.

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