Renault intros e-MPV
be bop concept nears production
Leccy Tech It's no secret that the Renault-Nissan Alliance has big plans for the leccy car and that Renault's first e-car will be something based on its Kangoo van-cum-MPV. The first draft of Renault's e-car vision saw the light of day last year in the form of the ZE Concept, but things are now firming up with the unveiling of the Kangoo be bop ZE EV Demonstrator.
According to Renault, the technology under the be bop ZE's bodyshell is “very similar to that featured on the upcoming production electric vehicles”, which should start to become widely available in early 2011 in what Renault describe as an "affordable" form.
As it now stands, the ZE is powered by a 15kWh lithium-ion battery made by AESC - Automotive Electric Supply Corporation, the joint Nissan-NEC battery venture established in 2007. That gives it a range of 100km (62m). Not far enough? Not a problem, as Renault goes on to say that, come 2011, improved battery technology will up that figure to a “real world” range of 160km (99m).
Renault's be bop ZE EV: side-facing battery charge gauge
Plug the ZE into a 10-16A 220V power supply and the car should charge up in between six and eight hours. Hook it up to a 32A 400V three-phase supply and apparently the battery pack will suck down an 80 per cent charge in around 30 minutes.
The 2011 version of the the ZE will use the new 'standard' EV plug that RWE showed off recently, and Renault reckons that when you use that with a 400V three-phase supply a full charge can be accomplished in 20 minutes.
If you want to know where Renault has stashed the 48-module battery pack, it's underneath the dashboard. The reason for this location is space efficiency rather than ready access for battery-swap stations about which Renault made no comment.
The battery is connected to a 44kW (59bhp) 190Nm (140lb ft) electric motor – down from 70kW in the ZE Concept - which revs to 12,00rpm. The only performance figure Renault quoted was a top speed electronically limited to 130kph (80mph).
Charged through the nose
In order to maximise its range, the ZE has been aerodynamically adjusted to sit 20mm lower than the standard Kangoo be bop. It also uses low-power LEDs in the front and rear light clusters. Apparently, that display on the side of the car shows the battery charge level when you blip the central-locking remote.
If all this wasn't exciting enough Renault also said that “two new, highly innovative vehicles” are scheduled for release in 2012. ®
Next page: Renault be bop ZE Picture Gallery
Wonder what the range is like on a cold wet night when you have the lights, heater and window wipers on?
Just far enough to make sure you arrive home very cold, and soaked to the bone.
Battery-powered cars are a dead-end technology for Old World countries. Where do I plug my car in when I live in a basement flat in a converted 200-year-old Georgian house with neither off-street nor on-street parking? (I used to park my car in a nearby supermarket car park, but few residents in the area have even that option. Most UK housing was built by the Victorians and predates the rise of the automobile.)
The solution isn't hydrogen -- that's a stopgap measure at best. Why do we insist on driving individual power stations around our roads at all? It's ridiculously inefficient. Trains have been running on electricity for over a century now and they don't use batteries. (Well, not for the actual moving anyway.) They get it distributed to them through overhead wires or live rails. Trams and other forms of light rail use similar power supplies.
Granted, stringing wires along the roads isn't going to make them look any prettier -- though a glance at cities like San Francisco suggests nobody there would notice the difference -- but that's far from the only, or even the most practical, solution...
Bombardier have built an induction-based system for their trams which sits entirely beneath the surface. (http://www.railwaygazette.com/news_view/article/2009/01/9282/primove_catenary_free_induction_tram.html.) This exact same technology would work just as well on *any* road-using vehicle. We're not allowed to drive off-road in London, so we're almost driving on rails anyway. Neither are most urban car journeys done at great speed. 30mph is a typical speed limit in most Old World cities -- often, it's lower. (Induction-based power would, incidentally, eliminate the need for speed traps / bumps and the like: just reduce the power to the induction grid in the relevant roads!)
"But this would mean digging up all our roads!" I hear you moan.
What do you think all those lovely, tarmac-slathered roads, coloured lines, floodlit signposts, traffic lights, zebra crossings, underpasses, bypasses, flyovers, motorways / freeways, roundabouts and the like were built for? The horse and cart? Not only have we already built brand new infrastructure for the car, but this infrastructure undergoes frequent maintenance and renewal: rolling out induction systems while performing routine resurfacing is perfectly viable and wouldn't add noticeable disruption. Batteries would get you through areas where the induction hasn't been fitted, but they wouldn't need to be optimised for long-distances: they'd be recharged while you're sitting at traffic lights over an induction-fitted road.
Remove the need to cart power-plants around in your cars and you can also make smaller, lighter, more economical cars. Making cars *smaller* is how we'll solve the perennial congestion problems in Old World cities like London and Milan.
Removing the emissions also makes certain civil engineering problems like road tunnels far easier to resolve as the ventilation requirements are drastically reduced. (Suddenly, the notion of tunnelling a replacement south circular A205 *beneath* south London's rat's-maze of a road network makes more financial sense!)
And if you've read this far, you need to get out more.
@ Christopher Hinton
As regards your remark concerning the Saudis: you don't really think that electric vehicles will be any more economical in use than current petrol/diesel cars do you? If so, check out the power generation efficiency and the losses in the transport-conversion-charging chain. What do you think will be used to stoke up the electric power stations? Wind power? Not very likely. That tecnology can supply 3% of our current energy need and won't be getting much better in the future. Coal? Gas? Also not very likely. So, with the majotity voting against nuclear power, most of the electricity of your electric vehicles will probably come from the Saudis.