Renault 5 E-Tech: First drive with new e-platform

Renault 5 E-Tech: First drive with new e-platform

The Renault 5, introduced in 1972 under the slogan “Little friend,” achieved tremendous success with approximately nine million units produced. The question now arises whether the new Renault 5 E-Tech can replicate such a remarkable achievement. To evaluate its potential, we have conducted several test drives with the new electric platform.

Renault’s R5 from 1972 holds an iconic status in the brand’s lineup. This compact car revolutionized the small car segment with its timeless and elegant design, spacious tailgate, and pioneering plastic impact surfaces serving as bumpers. Moreover, the vehicle’s appeal extended beyond aesthetics, with its efficient four-cylinder engines and exceptional comfort. It also incorporated a touch of French sophistication, offering reclining seats and three ashtrays.

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Jean-Sébastian Blazy, the development and test engineer responsible for the technology of the Renault 5 E-Tech, is uncertain whether the upcoming model will resemble the historical version or the captivating design study. While he cannot provide details about reclining seats and ashtrays, he invites us to experience the vehicle from the passenger seat of an unassuming Clio model at the extensive Renault proving ground in Aubevoye, Normandy.

Jean-Sébastian explains that visits from journalists are infrequent at this facility, but CEO Luca di Meo frequently joins test drives personally, trying out various prototypes. Today, it is our turn to explore the technology of the future CMF-B-EV platform, concealed beneath the exterior disguise of a white Clio. This platform not only powers the Renault 5 E-Tech but also serves as the foundation for numerous models within the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance.

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Within the vehicle’s interior, little is discernible regarding the new substructure. Only a meter displaying battery-related information such as charge level, cell temperature, and energy consumption, along with a prominent emergency stop button on the center console, reveal that we are not inside a standard Clio. According to the engineer, many components from the Clio’s substructure have been adopted for this model. The current car we are driving shares the same wheelbase as the Clio, but there is speculation that a later version we will soon test has a significantly reduced wheelbase, estimated to be approximately 17 centimeters shorter.

The development objective of achieving a spontaneous and agile driving experience becomes evident as we maneuver the short prototype, also clad in Clio attire. The vehicle demonstrates tight and responsive steering, allowing it to navigate fast corners and tight hairpin bends with ease. Understeer has been largely eliminated, and traction has noticeably improved. The experienced engineer sitting beside me explains that the prototype with the shorter wheelbase provides an indication of the direction they are pursuing. Given the nature of a car like the Renault 5 E-Tech, driving enjoyment should not be overlooked, and the engineers at Aubevoye seem to be on the right path. The prototype feels neutral, with direct and communicative steering, exhibiting a level of maturity.

As for technical specifications, information is somewhat limited. The Renault 5 E-Tech is said to offer two battery options, one with a 40 kWh energy content and another larger variant with 52 kWh. It is equipped with a separately excited synchronous motor producing an output of approximately 100 kW, which is noticeable during the driving experience. The B-EV, an abbreviation denoting the B segment and electric vehicle, possesses livelier performance compared to models like the Zoe, offering smooth and controllable acceleration. The vehicle neither exhibits excessive power nor feels restrained or unexciting. The Renault engineers evidently take pride in the compact drivetrain housed under the white hood.

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While the Zoe and Megane E-Tech models already feature separately excited motors that do not rely on rare earth materials, the B-EV introduces a new package. This package comprises an electric motor, power electronics, a DC converter to transform the battery’s 400 volts into 12 volts for the onboard systems, a battery management system, and a charger. All of these components are efficiently integrated into a compact assembly, neatly fitting beneath the bonnet of the Clio. Notably, this assembly is significantly lighter than the corresponding components in the Zoe. The new engine alone reportedly sheds 20 kilograms of weight. At the conclusion of the test drive, Jean-Sébastian asks whether the experience was enjoyable. Naturally, driving a new car is always an exciting event, particularly when it involves such a promising prototype.

Thus, the prospects for the new Renault 5 seem promising, with its agile handling and powerful electric drive. Even if it does not feature reclining seats and ashtrays as found in its historical predecessor, the anticipated design, if realized as envisioned, is sure to elicit excitement for the Renault 5’s resurgence.