Corporate espionage isn’t just something invented by Hollywood, as news from Renault demonstrates. The French automaker suspended three managers over accusations that they were leaking information regarding electric vehicles.
How high up the managers were, and what information specifically was leaked, Renault will not say. The information apparently pertained to electric cars, in all likelihood either the batteries or control systems, as this is primarily what’s holding electric cars back. Batteries are heavy, expensive, and still capable of only deliver between 100 and 200 miles on a charge. That wouldn’t be so bad, if they didn’t take, on average, four to eight hours (depending on the outlet voltage) to fully charge.
The first automaker that can develop relatively inexpensive, fast charging, long lasting batteries will have a huge advantage over the competitors. Nissan-Renault wants to be that automaker. To give you an idea of the kind of money at stake, the Japanese-French alliance has thus far sunk over $5.5 billion into electric vehicle technology, and has only just started selling electric cars to the public (the Nissan Leaf).
What specifically was leaked, and who the suspended managers were, Renault did not say. But the leak “threatened strategic assets” of the company, and Nissan is apparently none-too-pleased either. An unnamed Nissan executive told the Wall Street Journal “Whatever they leaked, it’s ours. They don’t have their own lithium-ion battery technology. We serve all of their battery technology needs, and we are their supplier of battery cells and packs.”
Ouch. This leaves me with more than a few questions. What was leaked, who leaked it, and who was it leaked to? The I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of this story, friends.
Source: Wall Street Journal
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to Hemis. You can follow his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout.