Renault Thinking Big With Plans for Battery-Electric Mini-Car

The French automaker’s CEO says the upcoming Volkswagen ID.1 rival will “enable democratization” of BEVs.

Greg Kable

May 17, 2023

3 Min Read
Honda N-one
Renault CEO inspired by tiny Japanese Kei cars such as Honda N-One.Honda

Renault is developing an entry-level battery-electric model as part of a strategic plan to position the French automaker at the cutting edge of the mainstream electric-vehicle ranks.

The price-leading model, initial details of which were revealed by Renault CEO Luca de Meo at the Financial Times’ Future of the Car summit in London, is planned to rival the Volkswagen ID.1 when it goes on sale in 2027 at a price expected to start at about €22,000 or just over $24,000 at today's euro-to-dollar exchange rate.

“It is one of the things that will enable democratization of electric vehicles,” de Meo (pictured, below left) says, suggesting the Renault model will help increase EV sales within mainstream market segments in Europe.

Luca de Meo_CEO of SEAT.jpg

Luca de Meo_CEO of SEAT_1

The Renault CEO indicates that inspiration for the entry-level model came from Japanese-market Kei cars, which are restricted in size and power by government regulations.

Kei cars refer to vehicles with a size of 134 ins. (3,400 mm) in length, 58 ins. (1,480 mm) in width, and 79 ins. (2,000 mm) in height or less, and a displacement of 0.66L or less. Kei trucks are allowed on roads where the speed limit is 35 mph (56 km/h) or less and the speed of the vehicle is 25 mph (40 mph) or less. This restricts these vehicles to residential areas – not that Renault is trying to replicate the Kei car with all its limitations.

“I like the idea of translating into European language the concept of Kei cars in Japan,” de Meo says. “I think that there is some intelligence in that kind of concept because it is not only a product issue. It is product-plus-regulation to enable efficient and low-impact human mobility.”

Set to slot into the French automaker’s lineup underneath the upcoming R5, the Renault model is likely to be based on a shortened version of that car’s CMF-BEV electric-vehicle platform.

That platform underpins the Renault 5 small BEV due in 2024. Renault has said that the cost of manufacturing a vehicle off the platform is 30% cheaper than existing EV platforms. It will also underpin the Renault 4 small SUV and a successor to the Nissan Micra small hatchback. The wheelbase and track can be adjusted to fit different models. Renault is in process of transferring its EV activities and products into a spinoff company called Ampere.

Commenting on the need for more affordable battery-electric vehicles as a means of protecting the right to personal mobility, de Meo says: “We are fighting against some of the things that we don’t consider right for the industry. But on the other side, we’re totally aware that we also have to bring solutions to the problems. I think that being able to produce a sub-A-segment car, at a low impact, is probably one of the solutions that the European industry can bring.”

The overall mini-car segment in Europe is expected to grow annually between 2023 and 2027 by 1.5% to about 1.6 million vehicles a year.

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