Following up on their rather interesting EOLAB hybrid concept, Renault plans to move forward by improving two existing technologies for next year, shedding weight from the electric motor and making a dual-fuel three-cylinder turbo more efficient. And they also have some far-fetched ideas for the future.
Despite having a strategic alliance with Nissan, Renault's brand new air-cooled electric motor was made entirely on the French side. It's a synchronous unit with a wound rotor delivering 88 horsepower and 162 ft lb of torque, and while its performance roughly matches their current offerings, the new unit is about 10% smaller, which makes a big difference when it comes to weight and packaging.
The size reduction was achieved by switching from macro-module stacking to fully integrated modules, assembled closely so that no external power supply cables are necessary. The junction box and integrated Chameleon charger (as in the Zoe) are contained now within a single Power Electronic Controller, which is 25% smaller than existing systems.
The new motor is also air-cooled, with only the PEC remaining connected to a radiator.
Renault says they also reduced charging times and power consumption thanks to the improved electronic management, the 3kW/11kW cables and the redesigned inverter.
We shall see whether Nissan can get a piece of this for their next Leaf.
The new gas/LPG engine is a three-cylinder with a single turbocharger, with stop/start and brake energy recovery.
It promises a fuel consumption reduction of 20% compared to a previous-generation. The biggest technical challenge in this case was to achieve the right balance between turbo boost and LPG pressure while allowing maximum use in LPG mode with no input from the driver. The cars featuring this powertrain next year will come with the LPG kit fitted at the factory.
Remember, both liquified natural and petroleum gases are pretty much the only way Europeans can get close to paying US gas prices while also staying on the greener part of the emission scale.
Wanna hear what's not coming from Renault in 2015, but might do later? Prepare yourself for some crazy ideas:
'HYDIVU' – Mild-Hybrid diesel
The 'HYDIVU' (Hybrid Diesel for LCVs) research prototype aims to reduce fuel consumption and therefore running costs for high-mileage business users. It is based on the Master van powered by Renault's ENERGY dCi 165 Twin Turbo diesel engine, and has been engineered in conjunction with a number of European partners.
It integrates a 48-volt (10-12 kW) starter motor and alternator-type electric motor mounted on the gearbox to deliver additional torque and reduce the load on the combustion engine. Its positioning, as close as possible to the wheel, promotes greater efficiency by allowing maximum recovery of energy during deceleration and braking. This 'free energy' is stored in the 48-volt battery to be used as extra torque on demand.
The power unit also features what Renault calls 'Downspeeding' – longer gear ratios which reduce engine revolutions when cruising to lower fuel consumption – while the twin turbos with variable geometry have been specially adapted to this concept. Significant levels of torque are available from just 1,000 rpm, and driveability is consistent across the entire rev band. Internal friction has been reduced through innovations like the steel pistons, and fuel injection pressure has been raised by 25 per cent to 2,500 bar to reduce emissions.
These three technologies result in a fuel consumption reduction of up to 10 percent over long distances.
'POWERFUL' – two-stroke, two-cylinder super-charged and turbo-charged diesel engine
Two-stroke diesel engines are commonplace in large container ships. Their thermal efficiency is around 50 per cent while four-stroke diesels struggle to reach 35 per cent. The difficulty, until now, has been in adapting two-stroke technology for an engine small enough for automotive use, which Renault is aiming to solve with its 'POWERFUL' (POWERtrain for Future Light-duty vehicles) project.
The two-cylinder engine is only half the size of Renault's 1.5-litre dCi diesel, weighs 40 kg less, ideally suited for small vehicle platforms. This 730cc unit is both super-charged and turbo-charged and produces between 35kW and 50kW (48hp-68hp) with 112-145Nm of torque from 1,500rpm.
Initial tests are encouraging, although the performance needs to be improved before Renault could consider introducing it. The engine is being developed with 18 industrial, scientific and academic partners in France, Spain and the Czech Republic, with investment from the European Union.
'VELUD' (Electric Vehicle for Sustainable Urban Logistics) project
With urban deliveries in mind, Renault has produced its 'VELUD' (Electric Vehicle for Sustainable Urban Logistics) project, based on the Twizy, in conjunction with a number of academic and civic partners. It is intended as a 'final miles' solution to take cargo loaded into a small trailer from pre-defined zones to their final delivery point using intelligent fleet management.
All these projects are the work of LCI, a group within Renault which has been given the freedom to step outside the framework of conventional product programmes and come up with completely original mobility solutions. The Twizy, Renault's NEXT TWO autonomous connected vehicle prototype and EOLAB are just some of the solutions already created by LCI.
Okay Renault, why not?
Photo credit: Getty Images and Eddy Clio