Q&A: Eric Feunteun on Renault’s EV programme
How healthy is the EV market?
The growth of EV volumes is quite impressive; over 50% worldwide, and also on a European basis. Among that Renault is achieving a sustainable leadership position. So we are very happy with that.
There is always the question of is the glass half empty or half full? It’s true that if you say it’s 0.4% [of the total new car market] in Europe it’s not that big, but within Renault we are above 25,000 units sold as pure EV, so it’s not nothing. It’s becoming significant, so we are very happy.
What’s needed to help it grow further?
We need the ecosystem to continue to develop. People are saying incentives are finished, the reality is they’re continuing and growing. Austria has just launched its incentive programme, Belgium also and the UK, OK there is a slight decrease, but it remains a very strong programme.
Then you have trends on charging. Private charging is easier and easier to install because we manage the relationship with the electricity companies and there is more and more support either from cities or government for the cost of this infrastructure. Then you have non-financial benefits, which are as important as the financial ones, everything that makes your life easier driving an EV whether it’s parking, driving in the bus lane in Oslo, accessing the city centre in London, in Milan or Rome.
Renault wants to double its electric range by 2020, will you offer multiple battery capacities as Nissan and Tesla have done?
So we will keep the choice because, I think, in the EV world, those are the two routes which will open. One focusing on range, one route focusing on cost of ownership. These are important, especially when you consider in the long term that the incentives might be reduced.
PSA and Nissan have rapid charging on their electric vans, do you see Renault offering this on the Kangoo Z.E.?
At this stage we don’t see how rapid charging can be effectively used. No companies can buy a DC charger, it’s too expensive, and we don’t think a large number of companies can rely on public charging to do their business.
If we can improve maybe to 7kW maybe this could help – that’s something we might do in the next few years. Clearly the fast charging for me is a very strong communication point, but we have to prioritise the engineering resources and I prefer to focus on items which have a real customer benefit. I didn’t see many fleet users saying they use rapid charging.
Most of the sales growth recently has come from PHEVs – do you see Renault offering one or are you focused on EVs?
It’s not a philosophical debate, it’s a very pragmatic debate. Our position is to bring the technology at an affordable cost. So the question is in what segment, in what country, and with what tax scheme does it make sense to have plug-in hybrid, hybrid, mild hybrid? We are always trying to find the right compromise.
No doors are closed, the technology is available. Of course it’s easier to convince the customer to move to hybrids, because it’s changing less of their habits. Nevertheless, we still think that EV is very efficient for a big chunk of the market, that when we do the job properly – like we are doing now – we can convince people to move, and the more cars are on the roads the easier it will be to convince them. So we are not going to relax our pressure and our willingness to push pure EV technology. We are almost there, so we’re not stopping.