Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf Will Lead the Way for Alliance Shared Platforms

The Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf will share a common platform in the next few years as the Renault-Nissan Alliance strives to gain economies of scale.

The all-electric cars will continue to have distinctly different exteriors, but their electric motors and other parts will be shared, said Arnaud Deboeuf, senior vice president of Renault-Nissan BV, to Automotive News.

Of the two, the smaller Renault model is not sold in the U.S., as this brand is not here at all, but it did get an updated battery the year, as the twice-revised 2011-2016 generation Leaf awaits its turn.

Debouf otherwise said the exterior designs will be changing enough for the two cars to share the same vehicles segment, without defining which electric car will change shape. The smaller Zoe competes in the subcompact class, while the Leaf has been considered a compact car.

The timing is also staying vague for now. He said that the launch of the new Leaf and Zoe will happen sometime after the Leaf’s facelift in 2018. French media reports said the Zoe will be first to roll out in the new electric architecture, but not before 2020.

CEO Carlos Ghosn has been putting pressure on the alliance for years to make production more efficient by sharing technologies and striving for greater economies of scale.

Reaching that cost-cutting model lately has been tied into global market pressure for the alliance to reduce emissions from vehicles sold. Analysts see that internal battle driving Alain Raposo, global head of powertrain engineering, out of his job. In a separate story from Monday, Automotive News reported that Renault veteran Philippe Brunet will replace Raposo as the top executive in charge of engines and transmissions as of Jan. 1. Raposo will take a new position in the alliance’s powertrain group.

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The new platform Zoe and Leaf might continue to use different battery cells, but that’s yet to be determined, Deboeuf said. The Leaf uses its own in-house lithium-ion battery, while Renault has been buying cells from LG Chem.

Driving range will be a critical issue for the next-generation Zoe and Leaf. Renault has been grabbing attention this year for the 2017 Zoe coming with a longer-range battery, with its LG cells nearly doubling from 22 kilowatt hours to 41 kWh. That battery gained a 400 kilometer (250 mile) range under the liberal European NEDC testing procedure. The company did acknowledge that NEDC is overstated on real-world driving conditions. Renault estimated that 186 miles per charge is more realistic for city driving with 200 miles being possible under more-sedate driving.

The Leaf currently has a 30 kWh battery with a total range of 107 miles. Talk of the Leaf getting a 140-mile range battery pack will reportedly need to wait. Ghosn has also said a Leaf with range competitive with the 200-plus-mile Bolt EV is also in the offing.

Debouf did speak to media about criticism over the alliance sharing too little over its 18-year history. He said that developing a new model takes about 10 years before the launch, and production cycles shared by the two automakers takes several years to find real alignment.

There are platforms being shared, he said. These are models sold in markets outside the U.S. and are mainly in the crossover vehicle segment. Automatic transmissions won’t be shared due to customer preferences rather than technical considerations, Debouf said.

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