2009 FRANKFURT MOTOR SHOW: Could Ze Renault ZE Concepts Reach Production?

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In this day and age, it’s not uncommon for large automakers to whip up electrified concept cars in an attempt to win some green credibility with the eco-friendly crowd. Renault, along with its Nissan subsidiary, is a different story. At the demand of its CEO, the firm has avoided pouring resources into hybrid electric vehicles, and is instead laboring to launch an electric vehicle into the consumer market as soon as possible.

For the most part, these concepts are good previews, if not dead ringers, for future Renault electric cars. Yes, they’re fitted with the typical show car gimmickry, but if you strip away the LED lighting or cantilevered seating, it’s easy to see how these vehicles could be pushed into production -- and soon. In fact, both the Fluence ZE and Kangoo ZE concepts are simply tarted-up prototypes of EVs that are expected to reach production by 2012. Better yet, the Fluence even uses of a swappable battery pack, developed by Renault-Nissan and Project Better Place.

Even though the Zoe ZE concept includes oddities like a scented HVAC system, the coupe is small enough to be built on Renault’s Twingo or Clio platform, and offers enough practicality (there’s a small rear seat tucked in back) for most urban dwellers. Better yet, it uses the same electric powertrain -- a 70 kW (95 hp) motor and a lithium-ion battery pack -- as the forthcoming Kangoo EV, and is expected to reach production by 2012 as well.

Remarkably, even the wacky Twizy ZE -- a one-passenger runabout, billed as a combination of subcompact car and motorcycle, could even see production as early as 2011. Although it would look perfectly at home on the set of a music video by The Flaming Lips, the Twizy -- minus the cartoonish wheel fairings and LCD display on the front fascia -- could cater to urban dwellers and compete against the likes of the Smart ForTwo.

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