BRUCE GAIN

Renault wants to keep electric Zoe’s range a secret

Bruce Gain is the France correspondent for Automotive News Europe.Bruce Gain is the France correspondent for Automotive News Europe.
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Renault expects to extend the range of its battery-powered Zoe beyond the 200km achieved by the subcompact’s prototype, but the range for the production car, due to launch in Europe in autumn 2012, will be a secret.

Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn told shareholders last week during the French automaker’s annual meeting that even members of the management board are banned from revealing how far the Zoe will be able to travel on a full charge.

Renault says it’s being so careful for competitive reasons. The secrecy also should serve to attract more attention about the model.

The French carmaker is also being secretive about the Zoe’s battery. One thing Renault did say is that the Zoe will offer the farthest range of any of the EVs made by Renault and alliance partner Nissan, including the Japanese automaker’s Leaf compact hatchback, which is the reigning European Car of the Year.

The Leaf’s range on a full charge is 160km, which is supposed to be topped by the mid-sized Renault Fluence (185km per full charge) and the Kangoo car-derived van (170km).

Renault is placing a big bet on its EV program. The Zoe will play a key role in the program as it will be the first Renault EV model that will be a stand-alone design. The Fluence and Kangoo are based on models with combustion engines.

The Zoe will account for 150,000 of the 250,000 EVs Renault aims to produce annually by 2013. The Renault-Nissan alliance expects to have an annual EV capacity of 500,000 units in a few years.

The Zoe is also targeted at mainstream private buyers and will be marketed as an alternative to the new fuel-powered Clio subcompact, which will arrive at about the same time as the Zoe next year.

But just how much beyond 200km will a fully charged Zoe’s travel? I suspect it will not be that much farther, given the current limitations in battery technology.

You can reach Bruce Gain at bgain@crain.com.

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