Renault, Renault, Renault (and Lotus)

The latest round-up of news from the world of electric cars!

Hello and welcome back to The Fast Charge, the twice-weekly newsletter that will plug you into the latest in electric motoring. My name is Tom Riley and I’ll be your host.

I’m afraid there is no in-depth story in today’s edition on account of me being overly busy recently. However, I am working on a great exclusive feature which I’m looking forward to sharing details on!

In any case, it’s been another fascinating few days of news in the world of EV. General Motors have hit the ground running with their electric surge, meanwhile, Tesla has hit a wall. And Renault seems to have decided they wanted all their news out in one week.

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In the news…

BRIGHT IDEA: General Motors are yet again this week on the charge to reclaim EV dominance (maybe). Earlier this week they announced a new brand within their business called ‘BrightDrop’ which will launch two products: an electric van called the EV600 with an estimated range of 250 miles plus a pod-like electric pallet dubbed EP1. Not just some new hardware, though, BrightDrop (GM) has also developed innovative tech and software to make operating logistics businesses smarter. Their ambition is to create an ecosystem of electric and connected products. They have already signed up FedEx, so hats off to them. Then again, $27 billion of investment will take you a long way!

BAD IDEA: In further goods news for GM, their nemesis Tesla had a very tricky moment on Wednesday after weeks of seemingly excellent news. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has asked Tesla to recall 158,000 Model S and Model X vehicles over media control unit (MCU) failures that could pose safety risks by leading to their displays not working. Basically, the enormous touchscreen they are using wasn’t designed to be put in a car dashboard, meaning it could overheat and break. The NHTSA, having found it does not meet the “automotive-grade”, have given Tesla until 27 January to respond.

ALIBA-CAR: Meanwhile in Asia. The little known Zhiji Motor (or ‘IM’), a high-end Chinese EV company backed by e-commerce giant Alibaba, has debuted two new EVs in Shanghai this week. One model, an electric sedan, will be open for pre-order in April and delivered to Chinese customers in 2022, while the other model, an electric SUV, is expected to hit the market in 2022. From checking out an image of the sedan (below), I do hope some European manufacturers steal from the design because it looks like an absolute stealth weapon. It also acts like one too. The ‘IM’ will come standard with a 93kWh battery pack and the top-spec will be powered by a 115kWh pack, which enables a range of up to 874km. It’s a bit smaller and shorter ranged than the recent NIO ET7, but it doesn’t look like a moving aquarium - which the latter does - so swings and roundabouts.

HIGH FIVE: Talking of things that look interesting. Renault has confirmed that it will launch a new electric version of its popular 80s Renault 5 hatchback model. It will go on sale in the future alongside a number of all-electric cars Renault plans to launch by 2025. This is all part of Renault’s push for 30% of its sales to be of electric vehicles by 2025. The picture of the prototype Renault 5 (below) has been widely shared in the last 24 hours. Many people believe it looks great, I’m not so keen. Renault design chief Gilles Vidal said of the launch: “The design of the Renault 5 Prototype is based on the R5, a cult model of our heritage. This prototype simply embodies modernity, a vehicle relevant to its time: urban, electric, attractive.” Ooh la la.

SUPER ALPINE: Yesterday, manufacturers Alpine and Lotus confirmed plans to work together on developing an electric supercar. Apparently, they are aiming for 2025 to release whatever they create. It should be very exciting, both brands have some incredible history creating epic cars and with Alpine (Renault’s) increasing success in Formula One, the vehicle they come up with could be incredible. As Renault’s boss puts it: “We will focus on doing an exciting car, and then everything will be fine.” Touché.

AND WHY STOP THERE? Not content with showing off the prototype Renault 5 and their tie-up with Lotus, Groupe Renault have also announced this week that their Alpine brand will go fully electric with a hatchback and crossover in development (alongside the supercar with Lotus). Sacre bleu!

HOWEVER: it’s not all totally good news down at Renault. Amidst all the great announcements, they also revealed that they will be cutting their factory capacity by a quarter. This comes after a tough few years for the company which was forced into taking a huge state-backed loan worth €5bn in 2020, ultimately leading to 15,000 job losses. Hopefully these changes will ensure the future will end up bright for the French brand. Vive la Révolution!

By Tom Riley