PARIS – Renault and its suppliers will furnish at least 15,637 Kangoo Z.E. delivery vans over the next four years in France, bolstering the country’s bid to become a heavyweight in the electric-vehicle world.

The French purchasing office UGAP chose the Kangoo for a consortium of public agencies and private companies that grouped their orders to obtain lower per-unit costs.

The Z.E. is built on the same production line as Renault’s diesel models in Maubeuge, France.

The 2-seat Peugeot iOn from PSA Peugeot Citroen won an order for 3,074 units over the same four years. But it will do less for the stated goal of building a French supply chain because it is produced in Japan by Mitsubishi. Government purchasing is obliged to consider all offers.

France’s goal is to build 2 million EVs a year by 2020 and to have 1 million charging stations by 2015.

The country got off to an early start in EV development, producing about 10,000 units powered by now-banned nickel-cadmium batteries beginning in the mid-1990s. But those EVs, mainly the Peugeot 106 and Citroen Saxo, did not achieve market success.

The good news for auto makers is that the bulk-bidding process required that total EV ownership costs not exceed those of an equivalent diesel. The government believes the comparable costs of the vehicles will help EV marketers persuade customers to consider lifetime expenses beyond the purchase price.

No auto maker submitted a bid below the government’s maximum price for an order of 3,937 passenger cars with four or five seats. UGAP says it will give EV makers another chance to beat its price next year.

The French post office is taking 10,000 Kangoo Z.E.s, while the national electric company EDF gets 1,500. The remaining EVs are spread among 17 other groups. UGAP did not reveal bids for the bulk contracts, nor did it identify all bidders.

The Z.E. launched Oct. 28 at dealerships in France and has a sticker price of E15,000 ($21,000) before taxes and after a E5,000 ($7,000) government bonus. Batteries are rented separately at E75 ($105) a month. With the bonus and battery included, the Peugeot iOn costs E24,550 ($34,400) before taxes.

France has promised to offer the E5,000 bonus through 2012 despite austerity measures meant to prop up the European economy, but after that it is uncertain.

The Kangoo Z.E. is on display at 370 of the brand’s 5,200 French dealerships. The vehicle’s battery is imported from Japan and Continental supplies the electric motor. As volumes rise, the plan is to import batteries from the U.K. or Portugal, and ultimately from suppliers within France. Also, Renault has plans to make its own electric motors in France.

The joint bidding concept emerged in 2009, aiming to distribute 50,000 units in the van, city-car and standard-car categories. Despite receiving only 18,711 units, UGAP says communities can order the Kangoo and iOn for the same price as the original bidders, regardless of volume.