How much would you spend for a car that gets 235 miles per gallon? According to a report in Automotive News Europe, Renault claims its Eolab, shown to the world for the first time at the Paris Auto Show this month, would cost the same as the current Clio diesel, which sells for $23,900. The Eolab is what Europeans call a “1 liter car.” That means it needs only one liter of fuel to travel 100 kilometers. By comparison, Volkswagen’s 1 liter car, the XL1, sells for $170.000. How is that difference possible?
For starters, Renault steered clear of expensive materials when designing its car. Thierry Bollore, the company’s chief competitive officer, says Renault purposely avoided the use of exotic materials such as carbon fiber for the Eolab. Instead, it uses lightweight steel, aluminum and other composites. As a result, the magnesium roof weighs less than 10 pounds and the total weight of the car is a featherweight 2,200 pounds.
Part of the reason for avoiding carbon fiber and other exotics is practicality. “It’s easy to put carbon everywhere, but if you are a customer what do you do if your carbon fiber door is broken? It’s a disaster. It costs a fortune. If it’s made of aluminum it’s easy because everyone knows how to repair it,” he said.
Renault has put a lot of effort into maximizing the Eolab’s aerodynamic efficiency as well. The variable ride height allows the car to sit closer to the pavement as speed increases, reducing drag, while it raises up at lower speeds to avoid potholes and the like. A front bumper spoiler lowers itself 4 inches at speeds above 40 miles per hour to restrict airflow beneath the car. Rear-bumper flaps also open at that speed to help maintain smooth airflow along the sides of the car.
The Eolab concept is powered by a plug-in hybrid powertrain that has a 75-hp 1.0-liter three-cylinder gasoline engine, a 6.7 kWh battery and a clutchless three-speed transmission with an integrated electric motor. The car has a 40 mile range under electric power only, at least by Europe’s generous standards.
Renault has not committed to building the Eolab yet partly because changes to company manufacturing facilities will be required before the car can be put into production. But the lessons learned from creating the Eolab will be incorporated into future Renault models.
When someone starts selling a car that gets better than 200 mpg for $24,000, I will be down at my local dealer with cash in hand, ready to buy. Hope it’s soon!