Renault’s EVs are about to go a little further

The Renault Zoe will be getting a new engine in spring 2015.

At a special event in Paris on Thursday, the French carmaker gave the motoring press a glimpse of its road map for a low fuel consumption, low emissions future as well as showcasing one or two innovations that will be coming to its road cars as soon as next year.

The Innovations@Renault event featured a number of prototypes, including a mild diesel hybrid powertrain for light commercial vehicles, but the breakthrough that will have the biggest bearing on its range in the immediate future is a new, more compact electric motor.

Renault is, thanks in part to its alliance with Nissan, already at the leading edge of plug-in electric car technology — to date the companies have sold a combined 200,000 electric cars since 2010.

And the new motor, designed and built entirely in-house, could make the proposition of trading in a gas-powered city car for one that’s battery-powered a little more attractive. It offers the same power output as the motor that currently powers the Renault Zoe but is 10% smaller and air- rather than liquid-cooled.

But as well as being smaller, and therefore lighter, Renault claims the new engine is also more efficient and will boost the Zoe’s range by as much as 8 percent. Although the company wasn’t prepared to give exact range and economy figures, the Zoe is currently good for around 210km before it needs to be plugged back in, so a further 15km or so between recharges is entirely possible.

But as well as limited range, one of the other obstacles to greater electric car ownership is the time they take to recharge when plugged in at home, rather than to a dedicated, high-power socket at a dedicated charging station.

Here too Renault has made a little breakthrough. When charging at home, the power will flow to the battery more efficiently and so charging time could be cut by 20 minutes.

The Zoe will be getting its new engine in spring 2015 when Renault is also expected to publish official performance and range figures.