French carmaker Renault will build electric versions of three of its vehicles - and after government incentives are taken into account, all three will cost the same as their diesel equivalents, the company says.
"We will launch EV van and car versions of the Kangoo in 2011," said Renault UK's fleet director, Keith Hawes. "However, the first Renault EV will be based on the Megane saloon, due in 2011." (The Renault Kangoo is pictured.)
Hawes explained that if a diesel version of one of the vehicles costs £15,000, the electric vehicle (EV) version would cost £20,000. The UK government's £5000 EV incentive would knock the price of the EV back down to £15,000 for consumers.
When they launch, Renault's EVs will have a 100-mile range. The vehicles can be charged by plugging into homes or work places, or, more conveniently, by battery transfer. Renault says a network of drop-in stations where EV owners can swap their dead batteries for charged ones is in the works.
"It would be a drive-in bay, something like a mechanical car wash, and the battery pack, which is fitted at the rear of the car, is swapped automatically from underneath in less than five minutes," said Hawes. He also said drivers wouldn't have contracts with Renault for the service, but with a third-party energy supplier instead.
Renault hopes that 15 percent of its global sales will be electric cars by 2015, and views the EV market across Europe expanding from tens of thousands of units by the time the Megane sedan launches to 300,000 by 2014. According to Car, Renault wants to be the de facto choice for EVs like Toyota's Prius is for hybrids.
While Renault doesn't sell cars in the U.S. (yet), it has a business partner who does: Nissan. Nissan and its Infiniti luxury brand have been aggressively talking up its electric plans - and Renault's big push for EVs in Europe may very well help Nissan bring its plans for EVs in the U.S. to fruition as well.