Renault’s new EV likes to dance

Renault France unveiled it’s new electric vehicle yestrday. Okay, so it’s only a prototype at the moment – but it’s an electric version (or Zero Emissions, as Renault like to say) of the new Renault Kangoo Be Bop

The Be Bop itself doesn’t immediately grab my attention. I’m not a fan of the MPV platform. Yes, they may be versatile, but they tend to look like the love-child of oversize family cars and a van. Which, quite frankly, is what they are.

But in this case, it’s rather cute. See, when you look beneath the surface the new Kango Be Bop (which has just gone on sale in Europe) has some pretty neat features such as a sliding tailgate, allowing the whole rear of the car to be open. (This isn’t the first time that this kind of trick has been pulled – Honda did something similar a few years back with one of their trucks – but it’s certainly the fist time in an MPV.)

Still, it’s not that which catches my eye. It’s the specs of the Electric version – and some of the interesting features it sports.

It's not only laptops with cool charge-meters
It's not only laptops with cool charge-meters

Read more after the jump.

Renault of course has a bit of a history with EVs. Thanks to strong connections with the PSA group, Renault have had electric Kangoos in the past, along with an electric version of their small city car, the Clio. But it’s Renault’s future which is really interesting.

Anyone who has paid attention to the electric vehicle scene in the past two years will know that Renault and Nissan have been partnered for some time now, jointly developing and sharing electric vehicle technology. The collaborations have been under the support of many, many European governmental initiatives and the Utopian gaze of Project Better Place.

It’s no surprise then that the new Be Bop Z.E. shares some of the Nissan Renault technology library. The battery pack (a 15kW lithium ion beast), transmission and motor combination all come from the Nissan Renault stable. The power? 44kW, more than enough to get mum and the three kids around. Which is good, since the Kangoo has become one of the many mum’s taxis of choice over recent years.

The Be Bop Z.E. will be touring Europe this year, and hopes to achieve at least 100 miles on a charge. It should also cope well with high-speed travelling, being capable of driving on major routes.

The neatest function of the Be Bop (after the funky rear tailgate) is the series of LED bars along the car’s front doors. Operating in much the same way as a charge indicator on a laptop battery pack, the charge indicator will give a visible indication while the car charges as to how full the battery pack is. I’m not sure everyone will want such a visible indication, but it’s a step in the right direction, provided you can turn the feature off. I, for one, would love to be able to see how full my car is in the morning without going outside and peering through the glass or turning the car on. It’s a smart, if somewhat qirky, feature. And it’s one I can see disappearing before a fully EV version of the Kangoo appears in Europe in 2011.

Interestingly, the Be Bop Z.E. seems to be sticking with a front-mounted charge port based on the Avcon standard used in previous PSA and Renault EVs. The press at the moment is not clear, however, weather that will include a fast-charge DC option for charging from high-power super-fast charging points, as currently found in Paris.

While I can’t see myself going out an buying one, this is certainly a step towards making EVs more practical and appealing to the general car-owning public. If the legions of MPV driving mums and dads out there can be convinced to switch from gas to electric then the EV switch over will truly have begun.