Renault's push for more affordable EVs has global implications

Renault K-ZE: SUV-inspired electric debuts at 2018 Paris Motor Show

The Renault K-ZE is a small electric car that signals a big change in how the French automaker plans on bringing electric vehicles to the masses. Set to go on sale in China beginning in 2019, the K-ZE is meant to have the design of a sport-utility vehicle, but it's on a supermini-sized frame. While it's set to arrive in Europe by 2021, this petite EV could eventually impact electric sales here in the U.S., too.

That's because Nissan, maker of the Leaf EV, is part of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, a three-pronged automaker with a huge global presence. In China, however, the Renault brand has been absent from the country's booming market for electric vehicles — driven in large part by government mandates to combat air pollution by promoting cleaner, zero-emission cars and trucks in cities.

Speaking ahead of the K-ZE's debut this week at the 2018 Paris Motor Show, Carlos Ghosn, the chairman and CEO of Group Renault, stated the company "was a pioneer and is the European leader in electric vehicles." To this, he added the K-ZE is meant to have global reach and bring costs down for the consumer. "We are introducing Renault K-ZE, an affordable, urban, SUV-inspired electric model combining the best of Groupe Renault: our leadership in EV, our expertise in affordable vehicles and in forging strong partnerships," said Ghosn.

In China, the K-ZE will be manufactured as part of a joint partnership in cooperation with Renault, Nissan and the Chinese automobile firm Dongfeng Motor Group. The range of the K-ZE is expected to be about 150 miles per charge, or roughly the current range in the 2018 Leaf EV.

Except the K-ZE is almost three feet shorter than the Leaf, which means Renault is getting a lot more range from a smaller and lighter amount of batteries.

While a car this size would be too small for the U.S. market, the technology beneath this teeny hatchback/SUV is certain to make an appearance here in the years ahead. At the 2018 Geneva Motor Show, Nissan provided a hint of its future European EV plans, courtesy of the IMx Kuro Concept. This edgy-looking electric crossover is a good indication as to the design direction of Nissan's next range of electric crossovers and SUVs over the next 3-5 years — look for the design and tech to similarly migrate stateside.

The wait for the IMx Kuro concept's brain-to-vehicle technology — the car's onboard Artificial Intelligence system can read a driver's brainwaves, then adjusts the vehicle's driving dynamics accordingly — is probably more than a few model years (or decades) down the road, however.

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