Renault is hoping to give its faltering push into China an electric boost with the launch of the K-ZE city EV, which was unveiled at the Shanghai motor show today.
The car is based on the tiny Kwid SUV that proved such a hit in India (initially, anyway) and has since been rolled out to Latin American markets. So far the K-ZE has only been announced for production and sales in China, but more global markets are expected to follow.
The production K-ZE follows the unveiling of the concept K-ZE at the Paris motor show last September. Renault has given the electric version of the Kwid a more premium lustre, achieved partly through LED daytime running lights splitting the main headlights and bigger secondary lights underneath. The upper grille has been filled in with a gloss black covering decorated with U-shaped graphics, while down the side the name K-ZE is inscribed on a blue-rimmed decorative panel.
Renault gave no battery specifications or range targets for the car, but had previously said the concept would be able to travel 250km (155 miles) on a charge. The car has a 33kW (44bhp) electric motor and the battery can be charged from zero to 80-percent full in 50 minutes, Renault claimed.
Renault has also declined to give a price for the car. A start date for sales will be announced “before the end of the year”.
Inside the car has a prominent eight-inch touchscreen as well as a 4G modem and voice recognition. A Renault app gives remote access to the car as well as information on battery status.
Like the standard Kwid, the K-ZE is built on the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance CMF-A small car platform, which is used for cars targeted at emerging markets. Renault can’t easily sell the Kwid in Europe without costly modifications to meet safety requirements, but it’s possible it could make the changes to bring over the K-ZE.
The K-ZE will be built in a factory in Shiyan, China, run by Renault and Nissan’s joint venture partner Dongfeng. Renault is well behind on its growth targets in China after posting just 52,734 sales last year, up from 23,000 in 2015. In 2016 Renault opened a factory in Wuhan to make the Koleos and Kadjar SUVs with a capacity of 150,000.
Renault initially planned to sell an EV based on the Fluence ZE saloon, but changed its tactic to focus on smaller electric cars after the market seemed to be heading that way. Renault didn’t give a length for the K-ZE but the standard car is just 3680mm long.
The majority of the 760,000 electric cars sold in China last year were low-cost and small in size, but that was mainly a response to the very generous state incentives available. China has since tightened the incentives to cut off smaller, low-range EVs from that financial stream and from this year requires all manufacturers to sell a percentage of EVs or face fines.