2 Oct 23

The Battery Series: Renault to unleash future EV mobility with the R5

The iconic ZOE has been an experience in electrification for Renault since 2012. The Renault 5 (R5) will open a new era in Renault’s future mobility with its new engine, battery and ‘power bank’ technologies.

Renault Group sold over 2 million vehicles globally in 2022, despite a 5.9% fall from the previous year due to supply chain issues. Yet, Renault, representing two-thirds of the group’s sales, became Europe’s third-largest EV seller, with 228,000 units sold in Europe (behind Toyota and Tesla). 

The EV mix in 2022 was battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and full hybrid vehicles (HEVs). The Renault Megane E-Tech BEV sold 33,000 in the second half of 2022, the HEV line including Clio, Captur and Arkana hitting 117,000 units during the year, making Renault the second strongest HEV brand in Europe. Compared to a plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV), a HEV has an internal combustion engine (ICE) with one or more electric motors and can not be plugged in. The batteries in the vehicle are charged through the ICE engine or regenerative braking. Toyota Prius is also an HEV.  

The group’s sales reached 1,133 million vehicles in the first half of 2023. Renault’s EV, HEV and PHEV mix sales increased 18% in the same period, representing 37% of the automaker’s passenger car sales in Europe. High figures from Dacia, thanks to its low-cost and range-beneficial vehicles, held over 25% of the sales mix with the Dacia Jogger Hybrid 140, launched in January 2023. Dacia Spring BEV sold over 27,000 in the first half of 2023, adding to the success. 

What are the battery plans? 

Starting the EV journey with lithium-ion batteries in 2012, the prominent electric car of the Renault Group, ZOE, was equipped with a Li-NMC (Lithium-Nickel-Manganese-Cobalt) battery. By developing the electrode chemistry, Renault increased the capacity of ZOE batteries from 23.3 kWh to 52 kWh by 2020 and to 395 km range with the ZE50 battery.  

In June 2021, Renault Group partnered with Envision AESC based in China and French company Verkor to develop EV batteries. Envision plans a two billion euro Gigafactory in Douai, France, aiming to reach 24 gWh capacity by 2030, says Autonews. Renault, supplying batteries for ZOE from LG, plans to produce batteries for the upcoming R5 and other models from Envision. Verkor also plans to build a factory in France, with ten gWh output spared for Renault, probably to reach 20 GWh by 2030. Renault says the battery pack will be used in more extensive, premium models, including the Alpine brand. 

In December, Renault announced a strategic partnership with European aerospace giant Airbus to develop battery technology for future EVs and hybrid electric aircraft. The goal is to manufacture SSBs by 2030. When SSBs replace lithium-ion batteries, the Renault Megane E-Tech is expected to double the current 280-mile (450 km) range without a weight change. And what battery is the Renault Megane currently using? According to Push EVs, it is the LG E60 battery cell, produced in a “Low Weight Module” in two versions: 

Version 1 (used by EV40):

Configuration: 2p12s (12 groups of cells are connected in series; each group contains two cells connected in parallel)
Capacity: 118,6 Ah
Nominal voltage: 44,04 Vdc
Energy (minimum): 5,22 kWh
Volumetric energy density (minimum): 460 Wh/L
The gravimetric energy density (minimum): 226 Wh/kg
Weight: 23 kg

Version 2 (used by EV60):

Configuration: 3p8s (8 groups of cells are connected in series; each group contains three cells connected in parallel)
Capacity: 177,9 Ah
Nominal voltage: 29,36 Vdc
Energy (minimum): 5,22 kWh
Volumetric energy density (minimum): 460 Wh/L
The gravimetric energy density (minimum): 226 Wh/kg
Weight: 23 kg

When converted into battery packs, the Megane E-Tech again uses two versions, with 8 and 12 modules, respectively, providing 40 and 60 kWh of energy. The battery chemistry is assumed to be LG’s NCMA (nickel, cobalt, manganese, aluminium), using 90% nickel cathode to reduce cobalt, which LG started mass-producing in 2021. 

ZOE has been one of Reanult’s electric pioneers, producing over 420,000 units since 2012, yet sales reached only 12,182 units in 2022. Now Megane E-Tech is leading the electrification charge, while ZOE, Twingo and e-208 bundle support EV sales with a sales range between 12,000-20,000. The other rising star of Renault’s electrification is the Renault 5 (the R5), which will go on sale before 2025. 

The ‘R5 power bank’

Renault unveiled its transformation plan, called ‘Renaulution’, in 2022 and announced plans to manufacture around 80% of EVs on the Reanult-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s new platforms. After releasing the Renault Megane E-Tech and Renault Kangoo Van E-TECH Electric on the CMF-EV platform, the new CMF-B EV will produce the R5 with a 30% lower manufacturing cost than ZOE, says Renault. This is done by taking 70% of the parts featured on the CMF-B platform for Clio and Captur. The automaker is testing the first nine prototypes for R5 to offer a ‘seamless driving pleasure.’ 

CMF-B EV is designed to produce the next-generation B segment EVs, having adjustable tracks and wheelbase, allowing different body types and styles. The R5 is the benchmark, paving the way to better dynamic performance through:

  • Optimized chassis with a multi-link rear axle
  • A lower centre of gravity with batteries installed under the floor

Illustration: The R5 engine. Source: Renault.

The R5 will use the synchronous motor used on the ZOE and Megane E-Tech, providing a better energy output than a permanent-magnet motor, says Renault. The greener engine, requiring no rare-earth metals, also lowers the manufacturing costs. The single-box architecture of the R5 engine is around 20kg lighter than ZOE’s and combines three main components:

  • the DC/DC converter that converts the battery’s 400V into 12V.
  • the battery charger
  • the accessory box that manages power distribution

The R5’s battery pack has four large modules instead of 12 used in ZOE, representing a single-layer of modules, which is 15 kg lighter than ZOE’s. 

The Renault ZOE Z.E 50 battery. Source: Renault.

Illustration: The R5 battery pack. Source: Renault.

One essential technology the R5 will have is the bi-directional onboard charger, enabling the EV to connect to the grid to load or unload electricity. Mobilize, the future mobility brand of Renault has worked hard for R5’s V2G (Vehicle-to-Grid) ability and designed an adapter connected to the vehicle’s charging socket, providing an output as a 220-volt power outlet. Mobilize Powerbox is a smart wall box that can communicate with the car and the cloud, deciding when to charge the battery or load electricity to the grid for various purposes, including domestic needs. This way, the R5 will essentially represent a power bank with a V2L (Vehicle-to-Load) function, powering electrical appliances when needed. 

The Mobilize V2G service will be available in France and Germany in 2024 and the UK in 2025. Mobilize V2G may become a hot trend in home charging as Renault believes it could reduce charging costs by up to 50%. V2G and related technologies will also help fleets in cutting costs.

Renault has a plan B

Europe wants to end the production of ICE vehicles by 2035, and the French giant is highly committed to aligning with this goal, even having a plan B as a contingency. 

The goal is to become fully electric by 2030. But if external factors such as charging infrastructure and electricity prices are not convenient enough, complete this goal by 2035. This may include converting the Dacia brand into all-electric until 2035. Nevertheless, Renault is well-prepared for its future electric plan. “Mobilize is one of the major building blocks of our Renaulution”, says Luca de Meo, CEO of the Renault Group. “We go from digital technology to the object and not vice versa!” 

Check earlier articles in this series:
The Battery Series: How Tesla wants to keep world leadership?
The Battery Series: What does BYD have on the menu?
The Battery Series: Volkswagen to boost performance through dry-coating
The Battery Series: Toyota to master both li-ion and solid-state batteries
The Battery Series: Mercedes-Benz's global battery network is ready

The main image illustrates the R5 architecture, courtesy of Renault.  

Authored by: Mufit Yilmaz Gokmen