Renault To Wait For Costs To Decrease Before Launching Plug-In Hybrid

JUN 19 2015 BY MARK KANE 34

Renault EOLAB

Renault EOLAB

Renault from the beginning a few years ago was very confident and focused on all-electric cars.

Then, at the 2014 Paris Motor Show, the French brand unveiled a plug-in hybrid concept – EOLAB, and announced its intention to bring it on the market some day; or at least use some innovative solutions from it in other models.

“The concept car is equipped with a 1.0-liter 3-cylinder 57kW (75hp) engine and 50 kW “a permanent magnet electric motor (axial flux discoid motor in the case of the prototype)”.

New light materials are an important part of (EOLAB weight just 955 kg / 2,105 lbs). EOLAB can go up to 66 km (NEDC) in all-electric mode using just 6.7 kWh battery.”

Renault’s chief competitive officer, Thierry Bollore even said at the time that a production version could cost less than Clio:

“We know that in mass production this car it would not cost more than a Clio DCi 90hp,” Bollore told Automotive News Europe. The Clio DCi 90 starts at 18,500 euros ($23,900) in France.”

But current articles about plug-in hybrids from Renault are indicating something different – costs are too high and the market is too small for Renault.

“Renault is ready to launch its first plug-in hybrid, but not everybody is prepared to pay the additional cost and hybrids still represent less than 1 percent of the market, the automaker’s chief performance officer, Jerome Stoll, said.”

“Renault will bring to market a production version of the Eolab “as soon as the market is ready,” Stoll said during the company’s annual shareholder meeting on April 30.”

Renault EOLAB

Renault EOLAB

There are forecasts predicting that PHEVs will match conventional hybrids by 2019 and in 2025 hit 1.2 million units sold annually.

But the technology combining engine with electric motors and lithium-ion batteries is – according to the article – more suitable for premium vehicles, but Renault doesn’t aspire to be in the premium segment.

“Analysts say plug-in hybrids make more sense for premium automakers than for mass-market brands. Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche are expanding their plug-in lineups. Volvo plans to offer plug-in variants of all its cars.

“Premium carmakers see plug-in hybrids as the key bridging technology between EVs and traditional powertrains, but the cost remains high,” said Tim Urquhart, an IHS Automotive analyst.

Renault’s wait-and-see strategy for plug-in hybrids will likely pay off, he said. “Plug-in hybrids might be expensive at the moment, but they will eventually come down in price and become affordable in the mainstream sector.”

Jamel Taganza, an analyst for Inovev, said Renault has no interest in positioning itself in the high-end plug-in market and plug-ins sold by its rivals such as Volkswagen are too expensive for mass-market customers.”

Source: Automotive News Europe

Categories: Renault


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34 Comments on "Renault To Wait For Costs To Decrease Before Launching Plug-In Hybrid"

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The article does not state, but I have often wondered about this. There must be a lot of extra costs to build a hybrid vehicle, because it has 2 powertrains. Most of this is mature technology, and I am not sure it helps Renault to wait.

On the other hand, EVs are dead simple, the biggest cost driver is the cost of the battery, which is coming down every year.


I agree – they should make an EV version, with fixed versions of the lower drag aero features.



They could make it cheaper by going the i3 way on the propulsion system part. All electric with a 25 KWh battery and a small Rex. That is the cheapest way at present to get a useful vehicle. Not something powerfull but damn cheap.


I’m also waiting for a Megane Z.E. with 400-500km range 🙂


Alonso Perez

Ghosn’s heart can’t be into this. He’s a cost guy and hybrids are complex and expensive. Nor does it solve his long-term concern, how to sell massive numbers of cars in the third world without destroying the planet.

EVs are potentially dirt cheap.


Any family ties between Thierry Bollore from Renault and Vincent Bollore from the French Car Sharing company?


Because Mitsubishi is totally a premium carmaker.


They could build it for less, if they make fixed versions of the active aero devices; in their lower drag positions of course.

They could save more money with conventional materials, and let the weight increase a little bit.

I hope they built it, sooner rather than later. It would sell better than they think it would.


Quoting the article:

“Renault’s wait-and-see strategy for plug-in hybrids will likely pay off, he said. ‘Plug-in hybrids might be expensive at the moment, but they will eventually come down in price and become affordable in the mainstream sector.’

“Jamel Taganza, an analyst for Inovev, said ‘Renault has no interest in positioning itself in the high-end plug-in market and plug-ins sold by its rivals such as Volkswagen are too expensive for mass-market customers.’”

Renault’s attitude here is certainly disappointing, but at least they’re being refreshingly honest about why they’re putting their EV development plans on hold.

If I could ask Renault execs just a couple of questions, it would be these: “Do you consider the Volt to be a ‘premium’ car? And if not, then why do you think it’s impossible to make an affordable PHEV?”

Londo Bell

Lensman, in response to your very last question – wherever you look at Volt’s selling price, it is a premium price for a non-premium vehicle, and hence, the sales number showed, especially in the case in Europe (counting Opel too)!



Have you driven a Volt? It’s more upscale than you probably think it is. And with the tax credit, very affordable. Factor total cost of ownership with its very minimal maintenance requirements, and it’s a bargain.

Londo Bell


Don’t confuse premium with luxurious option. For example, one can get a loaded up Note, Pulsar, Corolla, Civic with leather, sunroof, monitors all around, etc., but they are NOT premium vehicles.

That same principle applies to vehicles from Renault. Notice that the focus is on Euro vehicles here too.

Now, one can always load up a Volt or Ampera, but that itself doesn’t constitute the vehicle itself to the premium level. On the other hand, it also doesn’t imply that vehicle is “cheap” or bad.


I’m not confusing options with premium. I’m talking handling, drivability, etc. My previous 5 cars going back 20 yrs were all BMWs. Two 3’s, Two 5’s, and finally a 7. I think I know what I’m talking about. I was able to down size after becoming an empty nester. The Volt drives better than all but my last 3 series. I hear people suggest the Volt is an electric Cruze. It is far, far from that. If you haven’t driven one, try it.

Londo Bell

Totally respect that, and I’m not here to convince your otherwise. As I even stated previously, just because I don’t believe that it’s a premium vehicle, the Volt is neither a cheap (quality) vehicle nor a bad one.

Having said that, I do believe that it is fair to compare apples to apples. For example, if your mindset is on BMW, then compare a (say) ’15 Volt vs ’15 BMW 3. Furthermore, look beyond the horizon itself – a premium vehicle is NOT just about the vehicle itself; it’s the brand’s image, the entire purchasing and servicing experience, and the reaction from others toward vehicle ownership (without having to explain anything) too. And if you take a closer look at the ending statement of this blog post – the part referring to VW (in Europe) and its plugin strategy vs Renault, you may start to see what “we” are talking about.

So Londo define’s “premium” as perception. If one sees a brand name – they assume something. They may assume that brand name gives him prestige amongst colleagues. He or she may believe that brand name enters their name into some kind of unspoken club. The person who buys on badge is a foolish person, for sure. Why? It’s like holding up a common lie. It’s like standing for something that shouldn’t be stood for. If there is no substance behind something anymore, it’s passé and soon the stock in that thing will wither. Electric drive is the new luxury. In that order, if a Volt is only “premium” for 40-50 miles, so be it. It’s head-and-shoulders above the most expensive ICE with vibration, friction and dirty lubricating oils trying to temper all the friction and heat. Londo is just another person who has a snob’s attitude about cars with a legacy of charging a king’s ransom for baubles. He would call a Bentley or Rolls, premium. He would call Mercedes or Lexus premium too. Why? Because they have established an aura due to their price and accoutrements…All the accoutrements on earth don’t add up to a superior drivetrain. Electric cars… Read more »

“wherever you look at Volt’s selling price, it is a premium price for a non-premium vehicle”

Same can be said for just about all today’s limited range BEVs…


mr. M

Yes, thats one of the most important reasons why EVs sell so bad and haven’t reached 5-10% market share already. Just look at the Porsche PHEV models. They cost as much as any other Porsche ICE and get around 10% of sales.

When there will be a Leaf like car around 18k$ (+no incentive) we will reach this point. Can’t happen soon enough. BEVs MRSP has to be the same as the ICE version, because most people are easy and dont calculate TCO. They compare by the sales price and might not get a tax reduction.


Well, the Volt’s price certainly is premium compared to other Chevy cars; Chevy being the badge with GM’s cheapest cars.

One analysis I saw argued that GM should have badge the Volt as a Buick, which would have been more in line with the sales price.

I’m not so sure that would have been a good idea; seems to me that Buicks appeal mainly to senior citizens, and I think EVs appeal more to younger buyers. (Nothing against senior citizens; I’m in that category myself. But I don’t consider myself typical.)

mr. M

Average car price in germany according to Bloomberg: ~26.000€ (2012 stats, mabye some hundred more now)

Opel Ampera: 38.600€

So yes, i see the Ampera / Volt as a premium car. The Clio is a cheap one and the article states Renault want probably half the price (19.500€) compared to the Ampera. Now that is mass market!

mr. M

And to make a decent PHEV for half the price of a Ampera/Volt is probably not an easy task.


Thanks to everyone who responded! There’s a lot of food for thought there.

I guess it boils down to Europeans perceiving the Volt/Ampera as a car with a premium price but a less than premium value.

However, I’m not totally convinced this means a compelling PHEV with a range to rival the Volt can’t be sold in Europe. I think there are certain factors affecting sales of the Ampera that are not purely due to the car being seen as overpriced. For example, why did GM rebrand it as an “Opel”? Surely the off-brand badge didn’t help sales.

I see a lot of people mentioned the Volt’s relatively cramped rear seat. Perhaps Europeans consider that a more important deficiency than Americans do.

At any rate, I’d love to see a European-made PHEV that rivals the Volt in range, and in performing equally well as an EV and as an ICEV. Perhaps if the car was branded Volkswagen or BMW, it would sell better there. And of course, if it was made by a European auto maker, presumably it would be better tailored to what Europeans want in a car.


They re-branded it to Opel because the Chevrolet brand has little recognition in most European countries. In the last decade, GM tried to position Chevy as a “value” brand (offering some very cheap low-end cars) in Germany and some other European countries and failed miserably.

I think the main reason why the Ampera failed is simply the price. It cost almost twice as much as a comparable ICE car in Germany. And there are no incentives for EVs and PHEVs comparable to the US federal tax credit in Germany that could offset the price.

Also, let’s not forget that the Volt wasn’t exactly a huge success in the US either. And once the green HOV stickers in California finally run out, sales will probably drop significantly.

Alonso Perez

And the likely reply from a Renault exec would be that the Volt is too complex for third world markets, which constitute the bulk of Renault-Nissan’s growth. The company has recently re-launched the Datsun brand in Asia, for example, for simple, low-end models in countries like India while preserving the value of the Nissan brand.
Carlos Ghosn has gone after the electric car because people in developing countries have a low rate of car ownership, which will inevitably grow. Ghosn wants the planet to have a breathable atmosphere even if everybody in India and China starts driving.
Hence the EV. But it must be a simple, cheap EV. GM does not sell the Volt, and has no plans to sell the Volt, in any developing market.


On the upside: Renault will not divert it’s attention form EVs to plug-in hybrids.


Yes, this is a good news. There are already many manufacturers going in the plugin hybrid route, Renault should do different.

EVs are simple to build, not only they have less parts, they also require less time and complex machines in the production lines. Costs are dropping to a point that in a few years they will be cheaper to build than complex ICE cars.


Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is best example that people want Plug-In cars. If a Eolab would cost under 20.000 € i would buy because Zoe you must pay for battery around 900 € per year.


We are seeing an inflection point in EV evolution. A shift from (P)HEVs to all-electric BEVs appears to have started as manufactures reconsider concept and future models they will offer.

Could it be that buyers would rather pay to purchase more battery capacity than buy a limited capacity with mixed mode (EV/ICE) capability? ie: The decreasing battery prices ($/jWh) making it getting harder to justify the cost of including two motors in a (P)HEV vs. one motor with greater battery capacity; using budget for ICE power for added battery capacity and range.

1. Over the last 9-11 months HEV & PHEV sales have decreased YOY while BEV sales continue to grow.
2. Honda, Toyota, and now Renault are removing (P)HEV models, and delaying introduction of new (P)HEV models.


It is mostly incentives driven.

BEV incentives are far higher than PHEV incentives…

Equalize the two, and PHEV will take off far faster than BEVs.

mr. M

Only 1.2 million in 2025 of a market that sells already above 80 million. That is only 1,5% market share if car sales stay flat. Not really mass market 🙁

Rex Wilson

I am surprised that Renault and Nissan are having partnership and one company is finding it difficult to sell EVs.

All they have to do is take an existing model, add a motor and battery and sell it.

When people can pay for sunroof & moonroof without any return, then definitely some people are ready to pay for Plugin which gives handsome returns.


Rex Wilson said:

“All they have to do is take an existing model, add a motor and battery and sell it.”

Unfortunately, in all too many cases, that’s exactly what auto makers have done. And they discover that such poorly engineered PHEVs don’t sell well, partly because they invariably cost significantly more than the gas/diesel only version, and most customers don’t perceive that they get sufficient value for that extra cost.

Compelling EVs are designed from the ground up. Compelling EVs are not designed by taking a gas guzzler and figuring out a way to awkwardly shoehorn an EV drivetrain into it.


I like Renault’s EOLAB concept*. It’s a compelling exercise – something they should build, but will not.

Waiting around for everyone else to jump into proprietary EV/PHEV designs is a sure recipe for failure. “Costs are too high and the market too small for Renault”. This is because companies like Renault are sitting around on their hands waiting for everyone else to do the heavy lifting. Sure – they would enter the market once everyone else has paved the way for affordable battery packs and power electronics…

So here’s the deal, Renault. Because you have
taken this cowardly approach to producing an electrified car, if I had a choice between your product and a near-equivalent one from a company that literally cared enough to sell EVs while costs were still high, as to drive down prices, – you know what? I’d buy from them and not you.

*Except for it’s rear suicide doors. Those would not make it to production.


Things I like about the EOLAB:

1)The form factor. An attractive, low to the ground sedan/hatch – best for aerodynamics, but with better headroom than, say, Volt, who sacrificed more headroom for style points. EOLAB has style and room.

2)The aero. Obviously Renault has some savvy engineers. I just look over it’s bodywork and imagine the airflow through those ports in the nose and around those tires – out the vents in front of the doors. Everything says – airflow. It’s cool.

3)Disc wheels. They’re stylish and aero. Why do Toyota and others show their concepts with wonderfully-designed aero wheels, yet the production versions show up with the same old spokes and look? If the market isn’t ready for the aero look ( which I consider futuristic/modern ), at least give discs with cooling vents to customers as an add-on option.

4)Progressive materials choices. EOLAB is cutting edge in lightweighting through mixing component materials. Is it expensive? Sure. The more are built, the more the mass market will see less expensive mashups of lightweight parts.


5)I almost forgot – the 3 cylinder range extender. GM and Ford have excellent, award-winning 3 cylinder engines in stock. The power-to-weight is wrong. EOLAB is light, thus the 3 cylinder is adequate.