Renault EOLAB Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle (CONCEPT)

Written By: Brittney B.

Renault's designers were closely involved with the EOLAB project from its very early days. In the case of EOLAB Concept, they pushed the design parameters to perfect the car's styling and paid significant attention to detail in order to optimise aerodynamics and weight.

Renault made a daring new debut at the 2014 Paris Motor Show. After teasing and working on the concept for two years, they finally unveiled their lightest, greenest vehicle to date: the Renault EOLAB. This plug-in hybrid supermini is a concept car by all accounts, created to test and showcase the automaker's progress toward cleaner, greener, and more practical electric vehicles. It won't be available for purchase, but it is already available to testers and critics, so it's a great glimpse into the future of Renault's engineering innovations.

Cutting carbon, costs, and excess weight

The EOLAB's hybrid powertrain is heavy, but engineers made up for it — and then some — by combining a host of different materials in the body, including aluminum brake disks and a magnesium roof. They also ditched some of the electrical and mechanical components (including rear-view mirrors and a steering lock) that weigh down their existing model. The result? A five-door, three-gear sports car that weighs 551 pounds (250 kilograms) less than the already-lightweight Clio. Even the tires and tail are smaller, but like most modern hybrids, the most impressive innovations are the engine and battery.

The EOLAB follows a recent tradition of self-sustainability by harvesting electric energy from the brakes, and it's propelled by petrol and electricity rather than diesel and electricity. One mode offers zero-emission electric power, but the other gets much greater range, suggesting that Renault will use the model as an opportunity to reconcile the two benefits into a future model that can last on battery power alone.

Renaut EOLAB PHEV Concept

Helping France join the fight for efficiency

The EOLAB could potentially bring the French manufacturer one step closer to meeting its country's anti-pollution goals. In December 2014, the mayor of Paris proposed a ban on diesel vehicles to take effect in 2020, the same year the French government wants automakers to meet an ambitious new efficiency standard of 2 liters per 100 kilometers. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy issued that challenge as part of a nationwide effort to reduce emissions in the summer of 2007, but the proposed standard is only half of the "record" efficiency" Renault is already touting for the EOLAB. At 282 MPG (1 liter per 100 kilometers), it would more than meet the government's goal — but its technology is merely a preview of the techniques they may use in the future.

Luckily, the future is exactly what their critics and competitors are focusing on. Environmental concerns are rapidly growing across the country, and the challenges just keep mounting for automakers who want to do business there in the coming decades. Fortunately, Renault is up to the challenge, and it's not just fuel efficiency it's concerned about. In June 2013, six years after the government amped up its plans to prevent climate change, industry insiders convened to figure out how to meet the European Union's carbon dioxide emission goals. Renault engineers predicted that 70 percent of Europe's new cars would need to be electric by 2020, and 100 percent would need to be both electric and 30 percent lighter by 2030. The EU's carbon dioxide goal is 95 grams per kilometer, but the EOLAB has dwarfed that figure too; it was certified at a mere 22 grams on the the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC).

Thanks to the EOLAB's efficient technology and lightweight, aerodynamic body, Renault is poised to become an industry leader — or at least to raise the bar for competitors — as European governments clamp down on automotive requirements in the years and decades ahead. But if they want to produce real-world results, they may have to incorporate some of its exclusive technologies into production models that are cheaper and easier to manufacture. The project continues to evolve, so drivers and regulators alike will have to wait and see if (and how) that actually happens.