While Renault plans to delay or cancel a number of projects due to the global economic slowdown, CEO Carlos Ghosn promises that the automakers electric vehicle plans are safe. That is good news for Renault Executive Vice President for Engineering Jean-Louis Ricaud, who says electric cars will be more and more competitive against diesels in the coming years. The powertrain expert believes that 10 million electric cars will be sold worldwide by 2020. He shared those thoughts and more in a recent interview with Automotive News Europe News Editor Douglas A. Bolduc.
How competitive will electric cars be compared with diesels in the coming years?
Thanks to our alliance with [Japanese battery maker] NEC, we are now reaching the point where we are able to deliver batteries at a very competitive price. The electricity needed to fill up the battery is becoming cheaper and cheaper compared with diesel. Also, the cost of diesel cars will increase dramatically because of the tougher regulations on emissions. Because of Euro 5 regulations, increasing oil prices, fuel taxes and the decreasing cost for the batteries, electric cars will become competitive with diesels. This will continue because regulations on diesel emissions will get tougher while developing and producing electric cars will get less expensive, batteries will get less expensive, and the price of electricity should be stable, especially if we are using sources such as nuclear power. Therefore it is time to develop the electric vehicle.
With electric cars will you start small?
In 2011 we aim for a volume of 50,000. That is not really small scale. We would be pleased to sell 50,000 units a year of some of our cars. To move from the prototype stage to an industrial stage you need a large-scale application. The contract with Israel [to deliver electric cars there by 2011] gives us a chance to reach an industrial scale very quickly. The combination of this and the previously mentioned factors makes the electric vehicle move from being a dream to being as close as possible to reality.
Which new technologies are lower priorities now, compared to a year ago?
One example is the fuel cell. If electric cars develop quickly because of decreasing costs of the batteries, the fuel cell will be pushed further into the future.