A production version of Renault’s Eolab concept can be launched as soon as we’re ready, the French carmaker’s performance chief has said this week.
Revealed late last year, the Eolab concept was promoted as a Clio-sized hatch “feasible for the next decade”.
Driven by a 55kW/95Nm 1.0 litre three-cylinder petrol engine matched to a 50kW/200Nm electric motor, the Eolab represents Renault’s vision of a future plug-in hybrid.
Speaking with industry paper Automotive News, Renault’s Jerome Stoll said the carmaker has perfected the concept’s technology, but it won’t push for a production launch until “the market is ready”.
That means bringing technology costs - primarily the expense of producing the necessary battery packs - down to a more palateable level.
While a few volume-selling brands have introduced plug-in hybrids - which are seen as a bridging technology between conventional powertrains and next-generation electric vehicles - the segment is currently dominated by prestige brands.
Mass-market brands that have taken a swing at the plug-in hybrid space, including Holden with its $60,000 Volt, have so far achieved only tiny sales volumes. (Holden says, of course, that it only ever viewed the Volt as a means of letting buyers see what lies ahead.)
Renault’s view is that while buyers may be prepared to pay a premium for a plug-in hybrid that wears a BMW, Mercedes or Porsche badge, brands closer to the volume-selling end of the market must wait until the technology becomes more affordable.
But, with industry analysts forecasting plug-in hybrids to outsell regular hybrids by 2019, a showroom debut for Renault’s Eolab may not be so far away.
Some, such as Mitsubishi and its new Outlander PHEV, are already prepared to bet big on the plug-in hybrid game.