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Electric Renault Kangoo be bop Z.E prototype

You may have noticed a huge increase in the number of announcements about forthcoming electric vehicles – the latest is the Renault Kangoo be bop Z.E.

Renault has made a demonstrator vehicle available for test drives. The idea is to prepare motorists for the experience of electric driving, 18 months before the launch of the first commercially available models.

It features technology currently under development, although Renault promises that the performance will be much improved by the time of launch.

In 2010, Renault will bring out prototypes of the forthcoming electric Renault Kangoo Express for road-test purposes and to show how the project has progressed. The first production electric Renault Kangoo Express will be available by the middle of 2011.

The Renault Kangoo be bop Z.E. prototype is powered by a 44kW (60hp) electric motor and is equipped with a 15kWh battery. With just 18 months remaining before the release of Renault’s forthcoming production electric vehicles, the Kangoo be bop Z.E. provides a range of approximately 100km. By the time of their launch, Renault says that its electric vehicles will have benefited from an evolution to their battery technology which will take their real-world range to 160km. The prototype has a top speed limited to 81mph.

The electric motor has energy efficiency of 90 per cent – better than the 25 per cent of an internal combustion engine, which suffers from considerable energy losses. The motor is coupled to a reducer with a single output ratio which replaces the gearbox.

The 250kg battery is housed underneath the floor, between the front and rear seats. The battery of the production electric Kangoo Express will be located underneath the boot floor, without affecting cargo space.

The batteries are lithium-ion units produced by AESC (Automotive Electric Supply Corporation), a Nissan-NEC joint venture founded in April 2007. The performance of these batteries compared with former-generation nickel metal hydride batteries is much better, including range, performance, reliability and safety.

Lithium-ion batteries do not suffer from the so-called memory effect resulting from incomplete charge cycles which can ultimately lead to a fall-off in capacity. The AESC battery is maintenance-free and is expected to deliver between 80 and 100 per cent of its original capacity for an average duration of six years. It will also be possible to charge it for short cycles with no adverse effect on capacity.

Lithium-ion batteries are recyclable and the Renault-Nissan Alliance is actively working on establishing recycling processes and infrastructures suited to automotive batteries. Made up of non-toxic materials (lithium, manganese oxide or iron phosphate, and graphite), lithium-ion batteries do not present any danger to the environment, unlike former nickel-cadmium batteries.

Renault claims that even with current power generation in Europe, the CO2 emissions of an electric vehicle are half those of an internal combustion-engined vehicle – and less if the vehicle is charged at night – the most likely option.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance is aiming to become the leading manufacturer of mass-market, ie. affordable, zero-emission vehicles. As well as the electric version of the Renault Kangoo Express, an electric saloon will also go on sale in 2011.

The Alliance is actively forging associations with governments, city authorities and energy companies with a view to promoting the widespread use of electric vehicles across the world. The Alliance has already signed 26 such partnerships (up to the end of May 2009).

Although Renault and Nissan are seeking to share components, they are developing distinct line-ups of electric vehicles, with each line-up to be marketed and distributed separately.