ROUEN, France – Renault is developing a plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle for the C-segment to attract customers who want more range than the 150 km (93 miles) offered by Renault’s battery-electric vehicles.

Most competitors have developed both an EV and a plug-in, says Jean-Pierre Fouquet, head of the PHEV project, at a symposium sponsored by the regional Moveo industry cluster, so Renault is planning to join the crowd.

The project still is at the research stage, says Fouquet, and the “Zero Emission on Demand” project is not yet accepted for production, although he expects a decision later this year.

Meanwhile, he says, Renault has filed 30 patents on its concept for a new electric motor for the PHEV integrated with a 3-speed transmission. Allowing for a government subsidy, he says, Renault could sell the car for about €20,000 ($27,000), the same as a Toyota Yaris Hybrid.

Renault and PSA Peugeot Citroen have been working together with suppliers on a project sponsored by France to develop cars that emit carbon dioxide at a rate of 50 g/km.

A slide prepared for the symposium by Moveo shows how a Peugeot 208 could reach 50 g/km with PSA’s Hybrid Air approach, while a Renault Clio with a plug-in hybrid powertrain could reach 30 g/km.

The French automotive press has reported widely Renault will show a Clio-sized PHEV concept at the Geneva auto show in March.

The target price for the Megane-size C-segment car in development likely will include the lithium-ion battery, says Fouquet.

With its four EVs, Renault is leasing the battery to customers, but most competitors are including the price of the battery in their hybrids and PHEVs, so Renault is considering doing the same.

“Today the two scenarios are being considered,” he says. “But we are going to arrive at price levels where this kind of battery would have a very low rental fee. The majority of competitors’ hybrids, including plug-in hybrids, propose to sell the battery.

“Offering a selling price for a PHEV in a segment where the competition has an HEV… is a strong move for Renault, in terms of concept and for Renault’s goal of ‘mobility accessible to everyone.’”

Before the car would come to market, he says, battery prices must drop significantly, and perhaps that will be the moment Renault switches from leasing batteries to selling them, “including for the electric vehicles.”

Fouquet says the 400V Li-ion battery in the PHEV – about one-third the size of the 22 kWh battery in the electric Zoe – would give customers a driving range of 19-25 miles (30-40 km) and a top speed of 75 mph (120 km/h) on battery alone.

He says the chemistry would be similar to that of the Li-ion batteries in the EVs, tuned to favor power over energy.

The gasoline engine would let owners drive anywhere there are gas stations, and the car would be rated on Europe’s NEDC driving cycle at less than 50 g/km of CO2, or 111 mpg (2.1 L/100 km). The car would carry five passengers, like the current Megane in the C-segment.

Today, says Renault, the only hybrids costing about €20,000 in Europe are the Yaris and Honda Jazz, both competing in the B-segment, and neither one a plug-in.

Renault says its goal is a vehicle for which the total cost of ownership is less than that of a diesel in the same segment with an automatic transmission. Renault sells its cheapest Megane diesel with a dual-clutch transmission for €26,500 ($36,047).

Fouquet does not say how much of a government incentive Renault would expect for its PHEV should it arrive on the market. But today, electric vehicles get a €6,300 ($8,569) discount and PHEVs get E4,000 ($5,442).