Friday, October 3, 2008

Renault shows off the super-effieicent ZE. concept


Auto shows can be like fashion shows, where the designers bring out both their bread-and-butter designs, as well as things more fanciful. Debuting at the Paris Auto Show that starts this weekend, Renault’s Z.E. Concept car seems to be a little of both.

The Z.E., which stands for Zero Emissions, is a hatchback design, and, surprisingly for a French car, not all that disturbingly quirky. Based on Renault’s Kangoo be bop, the Z.E. Concept is powered by a 70kW electric motor that puts out 226Nm of torque from the now-ubiquitous/fashionable lithium-ion batteries.

Renault does some interesting things, design-wise, to help put as little load as possible on those lithium-ion batteries. All the things that people expect in their cars — radios, heaters, air conditioning, headlights — drain power that could be used to move an electric car a few more clicks down the road.

Renault has designed the body to work like a thermos flask, using two insulating panels with a sandwich of air in between, to keep you warm and cozy inside your car without quickly flattening your battery charge. Solar panels on the roof power what Renault terms a “temperature regulation system,” that handles AC and maintains cabin temperature, even while stopped in traffic or parked.

Renault, which is already working with Better Place to bring EVs and charging stations to partner countries like Israel, has a leg up on the infrastructure end of the equation — although the company failed to mention either of those things in relation to the Z.E. So although Z.E. Concept is just for show on the fashion runways of this years Paris Auto Show, it may also be offering a glimpse of what future Renault electric vehicles could be. Perhaps we’ll one day see designs based on it on the roads of Better Place partner countries.

Images and video courtesy of Renault.

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