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Renault Megane EV local showcase plan

It wants to showcase the zero emission car here to remind consumers it has not been caught napping with new technology. It also believes a car like the Megane EV would work in well with neighbourhood "car share" rental schemes in use in Sydney and Melbourne.

Managing director, Rudi Koenig, believes EV cars are perfect for these schemes, similar to the bicycle rental system in Paris where people can rent a bike for short trips around the city. Koenig believes that over the past 12 months, the electric car story has been dominated by Japanese and North America carmakers. He wants to grab back a slice of the action, reminding consumers that work on the Megane EV is well advanced.

A version of the small sedan is expected to be on sale in the geographically smaller markets of Denmark and Israel next year.

Renault says it will deliver similar performance to a petrol powered 1.6-litre Megane. The company expects the EV car to cost the same as a turbo-diesel, about $3000 more than a conventional petrol engine.

The Megane EV is part of a collaboration between Renault-Nissan and venture company Better Place, which is also helping roll out EV infrastructure to several markets, including Australia. Initially this infrastructure is likely to be centred on Sydney and Melbourne.

Better Place is working with AGL Energy and Macquarie Capital Group to develop a recharging grid for electric cars locally. Renault along with its alliance partner Nissan, has been at the forefront of the push for EV vehicles.

The recently unveiled Renault bebop concept van and Nissan's EV-02 car share components. The bebop is powered by a 44kW electric motor that winds out to 12,000 revs and has a top speed of 130km/h.

The concept's lithium-ion battery pack comes from a Nissan-NEC joint venture. Nissan says these batteries have 90 per cent better efficiency than a conventional petrol engine and are designed to deliver between 80 per cent and 100 per cent peak capacity for at least six years.

Better Place is working with several battery manufacturers to develop new lithium-ion battery technology for a range of new Renault and Nissan vehicles expected to be on sale by 2012.

Lithium-ion batteries store significantly more energy and generate twice the power per unit volume than nickel metal hydride batteries currently used in many hybrids. Renault is also working on a recycling program to make sure the new-generation batteries can be disposed of safely.

The first mass-market electric cars are also likely to hit Australia by 2012. Mitsubishi Australia has already cleared the way to get its i-MIEV on our roads sometime next year, while minor players Blade Electric Vehicles already builds a $42,990 Hyundai Getz.

GM-Holden is also pushing hard to get its hybrid ‘range-extender’ Volt on sale here by 2012. Toyota too will supplement its Prius hybrid next year with the locally build Camry hybrid and a plug-in Prius is also planned.

One of the biggest issues facing EV cars is their short range and time it takes to recharge. Newer ‘fast-charge’ systems slash recharging times and the next-generation batteries are pushing the range beyond 150km between recharges.