Renault boss makes an interesting case for electric vehicles Autocar

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Renault boss makes an interesting case for electric vehicles

22 June 2013

If you’re so inclined, you can follow this link to read some interesting words from Renault’s chief operating officer, Carlos Tavares, on the merits of fully electric vehicles versus plug-in hybrids.

During a media address in the middle of his visit to Renault UK earlier this week, Tavares also made a case for the EV movement that I found very interesting.

Renault, of course, has jumped into EVs with more financial commitment than any other manufacturer. Rather than make one electric model to simply give itself a PR-friendly green halo, it has built four: the Twizy, Zoe, Fluence and Kangoo van.

It’s a major undertaking, especially when EV sales have started off more steadily than many manufacturers initially anticipated.

Of course, it is only to be expected that an important figure like Tavares is going to come up with reasons why he believes Renault has got this right, and not everyone will agree with his sentiments. But here’s what he had to say.

“EV sales will only go in an upward direction. Why? Because the education we are giving future generations will lead them almost mechanically to select their products based on the short list of zero-emission vehicles. Nobody will buy a small car for daily commuting that will not be zero emission.

It’s out of the question.

“We will have more and more issues in terms of the quality of the air in the big urban areas. There will be a point in time when public opinion is going to put so much pressure on the governments that something is going to break. Non zero-emissions vehicles are going to be forbidden from entering the city centres.

That’s going to make a significant change to customer behaviour.

“Then there is the risk that geopolitical tension could throw the oil price through the roof. I was in the US when the gas price went to $4 per gallon, and I saw the speed at which the American consumer moved from pick-ups to compact cars. Three months earlier, everybody was saying the Americans would never leave their pick-ups.

Sure, they came back later, but they changed very quickly into smaller cars.

“At the moment the gross domestic product growth of the world is not very big, but if we start having a new period of growth in not only the US and Europe but also the emerging countries, the imbalance between supply and consumption is going to be so big that prices will skyrocket again.

“All of these bumps are going to take the story always in the same direction. I don’t know how many years this will take to happen, but I want to be ready when it does.”

Put together, it reads like quite a compelling argument, although it’s probably not worth contemplating what might happen to Renault’s fortunes should the EV market get … off by fuel cell technology or some other yet-to-be-developed innovation.

One more comment from Tavares stood out. He was complimentary about national governments that offer some form of financial incentive as a way to encourage early adopters into electric vehicles and hybrids. Our UK government, for example, offers a maximum of £5000 towards the cost of electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell EVs.

However, slightly contentiously, he believes such subsidies should be graded according to just how ‘green’ a vehicle really is, rather the current system, which says a vehicle must emit less than 75g/km of CO2 and, for EVs, have a range of more than 70 miles between charges.

“Anything that is done by any government to support these moves is a step in the right direction,” he says. “The question is whether we should do it in a way that should be proportional to the cleanliness of the products. If you have a tailpipe, it is not zero emissions.”

So according to Tavares’s argument, a full EV such as the Zoe or Fluence should get more of a subsidy than a plug-in hybrid such as the Volvo V60.

Interesting views. Anyone agree?

Interesting » Electric Cars
Interesting » Electric Cars
Interesting » Electric Cars

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