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Electric cars in 3-4 years, says Renault

Renault chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn predicts that it will be three to four years before mass marketable, affordable electric cars are widely available in Europe.

“Everyone is looking at this technology now – it is not 15 years down the line,” Ghosn said. “We are testing the pricing today, but it is pretty tough. People want the technology but at a price that makes it economical sense. That’s the challenge for manufacturers.”

Ghosn believes electric cars will have a specific use as primarily urban vehicles. Fleets will initially drive sales, with utility companies a prime target. Elsewhere, for non urban vehicles, the battle for fuel supremacy will be between fuel efficient diesels and hybrids, with the hydrogen fuel cell a number of years away.

Manufacturers still have a number of issues to overcome to make electric cars attractive to a mass audience. “The battery needs to be smaller, cheaper, faster to charge and have better consumption. It has to be capable of north of 200km to be acceptable,” said Ghosn.

The first electric Renault will come to market beyond the current 2009 strategy plan, under which 26 new models will be launched by the end of 2009. The first three – Logan, Laguna, Twingo – have been, or are close to being, launched.

Half the 26 models will be in new market segments as an addition to the current line up. They include a 4x4, based on a Nissan platform, which will be launched early next year and a Grand Modus.

On Renault’s aim to be a top three manufacturer on quality and its alliance with Nissan, Ghosn said: “Top three quality is achievable without Nissan but it would take much more time and more investment.”

And on Nissan missing its last two performance targets, he added: “When you stretch a company, from time to time you will miss targets. But we don’t put in conservative targets – you have to stretch to get the most out of the company and the people.”

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