235 MPG Renault Eolab Heads To Paris

Renault’s Eolab plug-in hybrid could net 282 mpg on the Euro cycle and in the U.S. it reportedly might achieve 235 mpg under more stringent EPA tests.

A prototype of the four-passenger car has been driven by Top Gear, they say it works basically as advertised, but for now, the concept is to be displayed in the automaker’s home country in October.

We’ve seen crazy hyped-up mpg figures before, but one of the more compelling possibilities with Renault’s Eolab is this one was built under mandate to develop affordable solutions, and they are planning to put aspects of it into production cars by 2018.

In Europe the 2,100-pound (955 kg) car is reported to be a future variant to the small Renault Clio by 2018 “for well under £20,000,” ($32,750) says the UK’s Top Gear, and in the U.S. Green Car Reports suggests this may be part of the future plans for a Nissan plug-in hybrid.

Unlike VW’s over $100,000 XL1 2-seater, which made headlines hay with uber-high mpg often insufficiently explained, Renault’s exercise in light-weighting, aerodynamics, and efficient powertrain uses more existing tech and may benefit the common person more.

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Core stats for the subcompact concept’s powertrain include a 76-horsepower 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine sourced from a Twingo, a 67-horsepower (50-kw), 150 pounds-feet torque “axial flux discoid” electric motor. The volume and weight of the transmission-motor unit is on par with that of a normal five-speed gearbox, and powered by a modestly sized 6.7-kwh li-ion battery.

On the easier-to-ace EU cycle, it can run 37 miles on battery alone, and reach up to 75 mph. The car is designed to look sporty, and kind of is, however it is no hot hatch. Rather, this one’s all about max efficiency.

But to be clear, ultra-high mpg scores we regularly read rely heavily on being nursed through mileage tests with a zero-gas-consumption, zero emissions electric motor sparing the gasoline usage. By the same token, you could say a Nissan Leaf gets 1,000,000 mpg – or infinite “miles per gallon.”

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A PHEV’s amazing advertising mpg only lasts as long as the plug-in battery lasts, then, regular hybrid mode nets less stratospheric results, but actually, the Eolab is still frugal.

After driving a working prototype, Top Gear reported the Eolab on gasoline alone might be able to get close to 80-90 mpg or so, far above the Renault Clio which in Europe reportedly nets 60-mpg-plus.

“Even if it’s never plugged in, it would go half as far again on each litre of fuel as that regular Clio,” wrote Top Gear.

For now, the 2,100-pound (955 kg) Eolab is indeed expected to be a future variant to the small Renault Clio by 2018 said Top Gear, and in the U.S. Green Car Reports suggests this may be part of future Renault-Nissan Alliance plans for a U.S. Nissan product.

Nissan naturally has said nothing official, but known is it’s heavily invested in battery production, sustainable transport, and increasingly cross-pollinating among its global products.

Green Car Reports cites an interview with former Nissan product head Andy Palmer saying larger Nissan plug-in hybrids are in the works by end of 2015.

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But for now, says Top Gear, the existing concept’s body is a nonstarter as it’s built of composites, ultra-high-strength steels and magnesium. Today’s car factories would face a “nightmare” trying to build it, and body shop repair would be also daunting.

But, just as VW has considered trickling down some aspects of its XL1 – like the powertrain to an Up! – so is Renault but maybe on a broader scale.

Nearly all the ideas in Eolab says Renault will be production-possible by 2020, and many of them much sooner, said Top Gear.

“The car was built in response to a French Government challenge to both Renault and PSA to demonstrate ideas for cars for the end of the decade that are affordable and mass-produced and can do 2.0litres/100km (141mpg),” said Top Gear.

It may be only mildly instructive for now, but Top Gear came away favorably impressed with the working PHEV it drove – and noted the Eolab heading to Paris will be a non-functioning concept showpiece. Reports have said the Eolab concept’s coefficient of drag is 0.235, but Top Gear reports even lower 0.227 for the car it sampled, and significantly, it’s enjoyable to drive.

The prototype feels kind of sporty, top speed is 100 mph, and 0-60 takes 9.0 seconds. Electric range in commuter oriented “weekday” mode is “40 miles” and the engine kicks on at 75 mph.

“It always moves away electrically. It’s silent, smooth, responsive and as clean-feeling as EVs always are,” wrote Top Gear. “Then the petrol engine starts at about 25 mph. Because you’re already rolling, it chugs to life unobtrusively. Whatever you do with the accelerator, it stays running as long as you don’t drop below that speed.”
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The transmission has no clutch, and only three gears. One gear is engine driven, the other two by the e-motor and they are used in various combinations, said Top Gear.

“This means the car can effectively change gear between four ‘gears’ (not just three) with the engine running, and the engineers say it should feel as smooth as a double-clutch,” reported Top Gear. “At the moment it doesn’t – there’s a notable pause, like an early single-clutch flappy-paddle.”

The takeaway is this work-in-progress has promise.

“It can be chucked into bends without a care, and finds about as much grip as a decent supermini, despite the skinny aero tyres,” wrote Top Gear. “Again, that’s its lightness paying off. It rolls a bit but you feel quite racy sat down low. The power steering feels unnatural going gently but actually gets livelier when you’re cornering hard, so the fundamentals are right.”

The brake pedal needs work and still feels grabby for the computer-controlled regen system with no mechanical link between pedal and calipers, but the “ride is supple and the body feels impressively tight and rigid.”

Most importantly, “Renault insists most of the innovations won’t be too costly,” and it’s a good looking design that “drives like a normal car.”

But if the U.S. EPA is targeting low 40 mpg on the sticker by 2025, will this be an overachiever if core aspects of it show up in Nissan guise?

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That’s open to conjecture, but more certain is Renault is developing the Eolab’s technologies for Europe where they are at least as adamant, if not more, about reducing CO2 and improving mileage.

Americans can only hope we get some of the company’s latest developments sooner, rather than later, and who knows? We just may.

Top Gear, Green Car Reports.