Renault’s Z.E. range of electric vehicles turned a few heads at last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show but the company’s new electric concept car, the DeZir, is more likely give passersby a case of whiplash. The DeZir is a two-seater coupé that Renault says stands out as an illustration of the company’s commitment to more emotional styling. With its sports car looks and ability to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h (62mph) in five seconds, or 0 to 50 km/h in just two seconds, it’s hard to disagree.

The DeZir is the first Renault project to have been led by Laurens van den Acker, the automobile designer responsible for such distinctive vehicles as the Mazda Nagare, Ryuga and Hakaze. In designing the car its designers have taken Renault’s notion of the "life cycle" that aims to build bonds with its customers at watershed moments in their lives – the first step of which involves falling in love. Marketing hogwash aside, the DeZir, with its sensuous styling and bright red finish is sure to elicit the same kind of passion that is usually associated with traditional sports cars.

Exterior styling

The DeZir’s shape features prominent wheel arches that accommodate 21-inch wheels, while the vehicle’s front end features a full-width air-intake which strikes out either side of a large, vertically-positioned Renault logo. The car’s headlights sit above air scoops situated at the outer extremities of the front air intake to form a front-end design that Renault says previews the new front-end identity that is poised to become a feature of all future Renault models.

The headlights take the form of backlit prisms while the perforated "eyelids" are designed to add to the car’s high-tech feel. Rear lighting is provided by an illuminated strip that extends across the full width of the car with the Renault logo highlighted by backlighting through the fins of the grille.

In a unique design the DeZir’s left- and right-side gull-wing doors open in opposite directions – apparently to symbolize a “yin and yang-style amorous harmony.”

Interior

The interior of the car is dominated by white, although there are also echoes of the same red used for the exterior, with white leather upholstery and trimming for the dashboard, floor and one-piece, two-seater front benchseat, along with a red lacquered finish for the console and accessories.

The central touchscreen display provides drivers with a real-time indication of their energy management via an interface that uses video-game style graphics. It also incorporates a smart navigation system that synchronizes journey information with the driver’s diary to manage tasks and itineraries.

Electric motor and battery

To optimize weight distribution over the front and rear wheels the DeZir is powered by an electric motor mounted in a mid-rear position. The basic motor is the same as the unit used for Renault's production electric cars, although its power and torque have been uprated to 110kW (150ch) and 226Nm respectively to give the rear-wheel drive DeZir a top speed of 180 km/h (112 mph).

The vertically-mounted 24kW/h lithium-ion battery is located behind the benchseat and provides the car with a range of 160km (99 miles). The battery is cooled by air channeled from the front to the back of the car as well as air that enters through the lateral scoops concealed behind the aluminum panels on either side of the body.

Three battery-charging methods can be employed:

  • a standard charge using a conventional household plug (fully charges the battery in eight hours).
  • a fast charge using a 400V three-phase current (charges the battery to 80 per cent of its capacity in 20 minutes).
  • a fast battery exchange using Renault's Quick Drop technology.
  • Employing the same principles as the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) seen in Formula 1, when the car decelerates, kinetic energy is recovered and stored in the battery. This energy can then be employed by the driver to provide a temporary power boost using a button located on the steering wheel.

    Weight reduction and aerodynamics

    To keep the vehicle’s weight to a minimum its body is made from Kevlar, while its tubular steel frame is similar to that employed for Renault’s Mégane Trophy race car. DeZir's suspension also shares certain features with that of Mégane Trophy – including a double wishbone arrangement – for increased handling precision. Full underbody faring and a rear diffuser help achieve a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.25.

    As vehicles such as the Venturi Fetish and Tesla Roadster have proven, electric vehicles need not be lacking in performance and style and Renault’s DeZir is another example of this. Renault hasn’t indicated whether it has plans to take the DeZir into production, but with the company already confirming plans to release two if its Z.E. range next year, with others to follow there’s every chance the DeZir could join them.

    The public will get its first opportunity to see the DeZir at the 2010 Paris Motor Show. Gizmag will be there to get any extra details about the DeZir we can lay our hands on... so stay tuned.