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Renault, GM, Tesla all promising 200+ mile range electric cars in a few years

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Renault is working on a plug-in hybrid for 2014, and is joining General Motors in predicting that by 2020 electric cars will commonly have an electric range over 200 miles. The statements were made late last week and attributed to Renault head of research, advanced studies and materials Remi Bastien by Auto Express.

The plug-in hybrid development will be shown as a prototype car at the Geneva Motor Show in 2014, and be built on the Renault Clio platform. The Clio is a popular compact car in Europe, and was the basis for the Renault ZOE electric car. Bastien told Auto Express, “an eventual production version of the car would be affordable. It will be a B-segment car with Clio-type features in terms of space and comfort. The main thrust of our research and development budget is spent on improving emissions – with our electric vehicle strategy with the Zoe EV, we’re perfectly placed to develop hybrid systems."

The more important statement by Bastien was his opinion on the state of battery research. Effectively, he thinks the battery industry and automakers are at the beginning of battery research. Further research will improve range, and told Auto Express “by 2020 the range of an EV like the Zoe will double to around 250 miles.”

This statement is close to a series of statements over the last couple years by GM CEO Dan Akerson. Namely, that GM expects to be selling a 200+ mile range electric car in a few years. The most recent statement, in August 2013, toned down the hyperbole of previous ones, with Akerson only committing to a 60-70 mile range in the Second Generation Chevy Volt. But earlier Akerson had talked pretty freely about 200+ mile range electric vehicles.

There's nothing really magic about a longer range electric car. It's just a matter of battery pack with 60 kilowatt-hours of storage, or more. The Tesla Model S 60 kilowatt-hour model has an EPA certified range of about 200 miles, and is being sold today, with the 85 kilowatt-hour Model S delivering over 260 miles of range.

But Renault and General Motors are not in the business of making cost-is-no-barrier electric vehicles. Instead they're vying to sell electric cars to the masses, who are very price sensitive. The magic is to develop battery packs with that capacity which are inexpensive enough for an average priced car.

For Renault and General Motors both to suggest such cars are on the horizon indicates battery researchers are close to some breakthroughs which will allow 60+ kilowatt-hours in a package small enough and inexpensive enough for affordable mass market electric cars. Tesla Motors is also pursuing this goal, but their promised target is, in the 2017 model year, to begin selling their 3rd generation electric car, with a 200+ mile range, at a $35,000 MSRP, and production volume at 200,000 cars a year.

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