CLEON, France -- Renault’s losses on electric car sales will be reduced after the automaker introduced a version of its Zoe subcompact EV powered by a motor built inhouse, said Vincent Carre, the automaker's head of sales and marketing for EVs.
The Zoe is Renault’s best-selling EV. The company has just started sales of a version powered by a motor developed by its engineers that replaces a motor supplied by Continental. The new motor and its optimized battery combined to increase the Zoe’s range by 30km to 240km (149 miles).
The motor, dubbed the R240, costs less to build than the Continental Q210 unit, Carre said at event at Renault’s engine factory here that builds the new powerplant.
Renault sold 4,653 Zoes in Europe in the first four months, up 153 percent, according to market researcher JATO Dynamics. Last year European sales of the car were 11,005. Carre said the new motor option will help boost Zoe sales by 50 percent in 2016 compared with this year.
Also helping Zoe sales is a 10,000-euro bonus offered by the French government to encourage owners of diesel cars more than 13 years old to buy a new electric car.
Renault does not break out EV profitability but Carre said the company is “clearly not making money” on electric cars. Cutting production costs for the Zoe is important for profitability and also because some governments are reducing incentives to EV buyers, he said.
Renault does not use the same electric motor in the Zoe that Nissan uses for its Leaf EV because Nissan’s motor was not available to Renault when it started design of the Zoe eight years ago, Bertrand Largy, head of development for electric powertrains and batteries, told Automotive News Europe.
Renault will make its new motor available to Nissan, he said. He did not say whether Nissan plans to use the R240.
Largy said one reason the R240 is cheaper to build is because it does not use magnets, which are commonly found in electric motors and use expensive rare-earth materials.
Renault engineers succeeded in cutting the R240 motor’s size by 10 percent compared with the Q210 without sacrificing performance, the company said in a statement.
Largy said a battery in an EV costs more to produce than the motor but the motor's cost was “still significant.”
Renault will continue to sell a Zoe with the Continental motor. Customers for that model will pay 500 euros more for the Continental version because it is compatible with quick chargers, unlike the R240.
Higher alliance EV sales
Renault and its alliance partner Nissan have invested 4 billion euros [$4.5 billion] in developing electric cars since announcing in 2012 a goal of selling 1.5 million EV sales by the end of this year. The two automakers have sold 250,000 EVs since the Leaf, the alliance's first EV launched, Renault-Nissan said in a statement Wednesday.
Nissan has sold 185,000 electric vehicles globally since December 2010 when the Leaf went on sale, with the U.S. as the Leaf's top market, accounting for 80,000 sales; Japan No. 2 with about 53,500 units; and Europe No. 3 with a volume of about 41,500. Other markets accounted for the remaining 10,000 units.
Renault has sold 65,000 electric vehicles since its first model, the Kangoo Z.E., launched in October 2011.
Through May, the alliance's global EV sales were 31,700, up nearly 15 percent over the same period of last year, the statement said. Its EV sales in 2014 were just over 200,000.