The Future’s Small, Electric & Turbocharged, Says Renault

Renault has just published a document outlining its future plans for powertrain – or engine – development.

There are no major surprises really, but it’s good to see another major company nailing its colours to the mast with realistic and achievable goals.

The main points are:

  • Petrol engines are getting smaller and acquiring turbochargers
  • All-electric powertrains are being worked on in conjunction with Nissan
  • Renault’s diesel engines will continue to be common-rail injected, turbocharged models and will get smaller and more efficient while delivering the same power

All-Electric Commuter Vehicles

Renault’s target is to become the “leading producer of mass-market electric vehicles”. The company believes that “for … urban commuters, electric vehicles are a workable solution”. I’m not entirely sure – I still have concerns about the mass-market viability of electric vehicles. However, it’s reasonable to assume that Renault (along with several other companies) has done its market research on this.

Renault’s existing alliance with Nissan is certainly an advantage. This is because it gives them access to the lithium-ion battery technology being developed by AESC, a joint venture involving Nissan and NEC. Battery technology is undoubtedly one of the main challenges involved in producing a mass-market electric vehicle. Having the best battery technology is likely to be one of the keys to succeeding in this market.

Petrol Engines – Small & Turbocharged

Renault Clio
Renault Clio

For a little while now, there has been a noticeable trend towards smaller capacity, turbocharged petrol engines. Much as we petrolheads love the throbbing hum of a big engine, there is no denying the fact that they are not fuel efficient – just look at traditional American cars!

Renault has branded its next generation petrol engines as TCe – which stands for Turbo Control Efficiency – and says it is “speeding up its work on downsized petrol engines.”

Already in existence is the 1.2 TCe 100 – a 1.2 litre engine that generates an impressive 100bhp and is used in the Clio. The company claims that the 1.2TCe’s CO2 emissions are lower than those of any other 100bhp petrol engine, at just 137g/km.

The TCe range will be expanding and a family of engines with capacities between 0.9l and 1.2l will be created to replace Renault’s existing 1.2l – 1.6l normally-aspirated petrol engines. This new range of engines is expected to make an appearance in the next 2.5 years and Renault anticipates that TCe engines will eventually account for as much as 85% of its European petrol engine sales.

Diesel – dCi is here to stay

Renault’s dCi diesel engines appear in everything from Clios to Lagunas and also feature throughout Renault’s light commercial range.

There’s a good reason for this – they are torquey, powerful and fuel efficient engines that really deliver the goods. In line with recent automotive history and Renault’s petrol engine plans, the company’s policy is to downsize its diesel engines so that newer models are powered by smaller capacity engines than their current equivalents, without any loss of power:

  • Existing 1.9dCi will replaced by all-new, Euro 6-ready 1.6dCi
  • New generation 2.0dCi due in 2012
  • 2.5dCi engines to be replaced with 2.3dCi engine based on 2.0dCi design
  • 3.0dCi V6 will continue to feature in top-end models

Smooth Shifting

On top of all of this, Renault is developing new automated transmissions and twin-clutch technology that it says will be able to match the CO2 emissions and fuel efficiency of conventional manual gearboxes, surpassing the performance offered by existing automatics.

What Does It All Mean?

All of the changes that Renault is highlighting have been apparent throughout European car design for a while now – and several other manufacturers are doing similar things. That said, Renault have a good track record with diesel engines in particular, and still make some of the best mass market models.

I am especially looking forward to driving a TCe-engined car to see how well the promise matches the reality and how they compare to bigger-capacity engines.

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