Renault: 250 miles for electric cars by 2020?

Most electric cars currently offer a range of 80-100 miles. That's fine if you're just driving around town, but a few extra miles surely couldn't hurt. Renault says that more could be on the way--and by 2020, the range of a subcompact electric vehicle like its Zoe could be as much as 250 miles.

Martin Oeser/dapd/AP Photo/File
Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn poses besides Renault's concept car "Frendzy" during the press day of the Frankfurt Auto Show IAA in Frankfurt, Germany in 2011. Renault says their electric cars could drive as far as 250 miles by 2020.

Save for a few electric vehicles on the fringes of the market--the Tesla Model S, for example, or the tiny Smart Electric Drive--most subcompact and compact electric cars currently offer a range of 80-100 miles.

For many people, that's perfectly fine. But it wouldn't hurt to have more, right?

Renault says that more could be on the way--and by 2020, the range of a subcompact electric vehicle like its Zoe could be as much as 250 miles.

We've heard such claims before of course, despite electric car range remaining fairly static since the first serious production vehicles debuted a few years back. You'll get little more from a car like the cutting-edge BMW i3 than you will the Nissan Leaf, which debuted in 2010. 

And it takes a car with a battery like the Tesla Model S--60 kWh or 85 kWh, depending on the model--before you break through the 200 and 300-mile barriers.

But speaking to Auto Express, Renault's head of research, advanced studies and materials, Remi Bastien, thinks the industry is only at 50 percent of the potential of current battery technology, and that further development could see those 200-mile subcompact EVs.

That figure may still sound high to some, though it's worth noting that the European economy tests used to figure vehicles often return higher numbers than equivalents in EPA testing--Nissan's Leaf achieves 120 miles on the European cycle, and just 84 miles on a full charge under EPA guidelines.

It suggests 180 miles or so would be a reasonable guess for subcompact and compact electric cars by the 2020 date--still a huge improvement on today's vehicles and almost certainly a usable distance for many more buyers.

Given Renault's relationship with Japanese firm Nissan, it's wholly likely that any advancements in Renault's electric vehicles would also be shared with cars like the Nissan Leaf--and other future electric projects.

Bastien's comments come as Renault also reveals it's working on a plug-in hybrid subcompact for the European market.

Expected to debut in concept form at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, Renault's goal for the car is combined economy of 2 liters per 100 km--or 117 mpg. Bastien says the car would be "affordable" unlike some other plug-in hybrids, and believes Renault's work with electric drivetrains will help it develop hybrid powertrains too.

The new car will concentrate on reducing weight, but won't go as far as BMW-style carbon construction--which Renault says harms the affordability of such a vehicle.

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