For those following the ever-expanding Renault-Nissan Alliance, here’s a glimpse of what you’ve been waiting for: the basic prototype for Renault’s upcoming electric vehicles. At a technology level, at least, Renault says that the latest version of its “Kangoo be bop Z.E.” model is “very similar” to the electric vehicles it now has in the pipeline for production in the next three years. Renault toned down the neon green windows and bubbly design of the concept version debuted last year, and unveiled today in France a more pragmatic sibling of that model. It still has at least some of the LED lights and a lithium-ion battery pack made by Automotive Electric Supply Corp., a Nissan-NEC joint venture that’s key to the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s scheme to dominate the global EV market with a rollout beginning in 2011. But Renault has also made some noticeable changes from the concept stage, reworking the body design to improve aerodynamics and efficiency, and losing a few frills.

renault-kangoo1-hiresWith the current design, the company said today, the Kangoo Z.E. can go 100 kilometers (about 61 miles) on a full charge. By the time Renault starts producing electric cars for the mass market, starting with a family sedan in Israel (where it has a partnership with infrastructure startup Better Place) and a “utility version” of the Kangoo Z.E. in Europe in 2011, it aims to get that range up to 160 kilometers (about 99 miles).

Unlike General Motors, which has designed the Chevy Volt with a T-shaped battery pack beneath the seats, Renault has placed the 48-module, 15 kilowatt-hour pack beneath the dashboard, so it doesn’t take up interior space (the Volt pack takes out one seat).

Whereas the concept model (pictured below) displayed as recently as last month at the Geneva Motor Show had small cameras in place of side mirrors to reduce drag, Renault has evidently gone with mirrors for the prototype. If the company is going to take electric cars to the mass market with a full lineup of affordable electric vehicles — the company’s stated goals — that kind of compromise will be necessary to cut costs.



Photos courtesy Renault