"Today is an historic acceleration of Renault Group's EV strategy," said Renault CEO Luca de Meo in a statement.
At a live-streamed presentation, Renault offered a fleeting glimpse of its new electric "4ever." Two sources close to the company said it was a revival of the Renault 4 hatchback, also known as 4L, which went out of production last century.
The electric version of classic Renault 5 compact car will also go on sale in the first half of 2024. According to reports, the electric version of Renault 5 will cost a third less than the company's compact Zoe EV, which is the biggest-selling battery electric car in its segment in Europe for years.
Renault 5 was launched in 1972 and was sold until the mid-1990s with only one major update. Its prototype was unveiled during the company's strategy day in January in which de Meo revealed the company's plan to focus on electrification.
The company plans to launch 10 new EVs by 2025 and to have all-electric vehicles account for up to 90 percent of its models by 2030 – dropping its reliance on hybrids to hit the target under a previous plan. The first of its new EVs will be the MeganE hatchback which is due to go on sale in the first half of 2022.
With Renault's electrification plan beginning to take shape, de Meo is mulling a potential return to the Chinese market. A carmaker that "doesn't have a presence in China is like a table without a leg," de Meo said. "It's the most important market in the world. We need to think about how to get there."
While the French company blazed a trail with the best-selling Zoe, it's at risk of falling behind rivals including Germany's Volkswagen AG that are fast rolling out a slew of battery-powered models.
Part of Renault's push into affordable EVs is a pledge to lower battery-pack costs to less than $100 per kilowatt-hour in 2025, and below $80 per kilowatt-hour in 2030.
Those price targets "are in line with other western automakers," said BloombergNEF analyst James Frith. "They are also within the range that we would expect for volume production of EV batteries."
De Meo said the purpose-built electric car platforms and a cluster of production sites in northern France would allow Renault to deliver EVs at a lower cost.
He also addressed concerns that dealerships would be threatened by the low maintenance requirements of EVs. According to de Meo, Renault's electric cars are in fact boosting this revenue stream because EV owners are more likely to seek servicing at an official Renault garage than traditional car owners.
Before Wednesday's presentation, the company mapped out battery supply for its future EVs produced in France.
It said that China's Envision Group agreed to spend as much as 2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) on a battery factory near Renault's auto plant in Douai in northern France. Renault also revealed plans to acquire a stake of slightly more than 20 percent in a year-old French startup called Verkor for higher-performance power packs and join a venture called ACC with rival Stellantis NV and TotalEnergies SE.
De Meo said these projects would give Renault enough supply through 2030.
Renault also plans to bolster battery recycling and make them without cobalt, and work more closely with its Japanese partners Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. on battery technology and EV platforms. (Related: The big electric vehicle LIE: Electric cars are not "zero emissions," and their ecological impact is actually dirtier than diesel trucks.)
Its Douai vehicle assembly plant is one of three sites Renault plans to combine and turn into an EV hub called ElectriCity capable of churning out some 400,000 cars a year. With the French state as its most powerful shareholder, Renault has come under political pressure to preserve jobs and keep EV technology in France.
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