Fouquet says Renault’s idea for a cheaper plug-in hybrid relies on a new electric motor, a new 3-speed clutchless transmission and the inverter/charger and powertrain controller from the EV program.

“We have the simplicity of the concept around a motor, an ICE engine, a transmission and a system of actuators,” he says. “We put the intelligence in the software. Hardware is expensive.”

He gave an example of a car parked for several weeks at an airport in which the battery slowly discharges below the level required to start the car.

“Contrary to the competitors’ complex systems, where there are generally two electric motors, one for traction and one generator, today we have only one electric motor,” says Fouquet.

“However, we have introduced in the concept a function called Smart Charge. The internal-combustion engine will start for several minutes, recharging the battery. As soon as we have reached the charge needed, (the electric motor can take over). We don’t have a generator, but we have the intelligence of the system, which is much less costly than another component.”

The PHEV motor will use permanent magnets with axial or radial flow, he says, producing 60 kW (80 hp) and 100 Nm (74 lb.-ft.) of torque.

Software will control nine different driving situations, from all electric to all internal- combustion, passing through the three gears of the transmission. The motor replaces the clutch by handling torque to the wheels while the gears are shifting.

Fouquet says shifts are as good as those on Renault’s DCT already on the market. He says the automatic nature of the transmission, and its low price, will help Renault in Asian markets, and “the internationalization of the concept is important.”

Fouquet says the vehicle will accelerate better than a Megane dCi 110 with a 6-speed manual transmission, thanks to boost from the electric motor. The diesel would take more than 7 seconds to accelerate from 31-50 mph (50 to 80 km/h) in fourth gear, and the PHEV is calculated to do it in about 4 seconds.

A 50 g/km PHEV would put Renault even further ahead in terms of meeting future fuel- efficiency norms. Europe is targeting a fleet average for all automakers of 95 g/km by 2021, and discussions are proceeding in Brussels for a subsequent goal of 75 g/km.

Last June, says Fouquet, Renault was the most efficient brand in Europe with a fleet rating of 115.9 g/km. Sales of Renault’s EVs were worth 5 g/km, he says, which pushed Renault ahead of Peugeot (117.8 g/km) and Toyota (117.2).