French automaker Renault says its next-generation Google-powered infotainment system could push digital generations to the tipping point of buying a battery-electric vehicle.
The system is fitted to its “Generation 2.0” BEV, the Renault Mégane E-Tech Electric unveiled this week at the IAA Munich International Motor Show.
Marketed next year in Europe, the car is the first model to be exclusively “Made in ElectriCity”, Renault’s new industrial hub for electric vehicles, located in northern France.
Its powertrain features a new engine offering three power options ranging from 126 hp and 184 lb-ft. (249 Nm) of torque up to 214 hp with 221 lb-ft. (300 Nm) of torque and four levels of regenerative braking.
Known more specifically as the Electrically Excited Synchronous Motor (EESM), it claims better power output compared to permanent magnet motors and does not require rare earth metals, thereby reducing the environmental impact and cost of large-scale production.
The motor is compact and weighs 319 lbs. (145 kg), which is about 10% less than the engine currently used in the Renault Zoe, despite a marked increase in both power and torque. Its high powered version claims a sprint time to 62 mph (100 km / h) in 7.4 seconds.
The electric Mégane E-Tech is offered with a choice of two battery capacities: 40 kWh for a range of 186 miles (299 km in the WLTP cycle) and 60 kWh for a range of up to 292 miles (470 km in the WLTP cycle). , depending on model).
The 40 kWh battery is made up of 8 modules of 24 cells each, distributed over a single layer. The 60 kWh battery consists of 12 modules of 24 cells each, distributed over two layers.
BEV tipping point?
Beyond power and autonomy, the in-cabin user experience of Mégane E-Tech Electric will appeal to Generation X and younger consumers who depend on an extended digital life, said Marc Pinel-Peschardiere, Chef from the Renault design studio.
He says the power of the new digital experience lies in the marriage with Google technology. Speaking exclusively to WardsAuto at the show, Pinel-Peschardiere says he believes this technology will drive BEV sales better than any other technology on the vehicle.
“When you look at what the younger generations are looking at when they buy cars today, they don’t look so much at engines or horsepower. What is important to them is “will I be able to have my digital life inside the car?” “
“It’s also more important when we talk about used cars. Today, if you want to buy a used car, you choose one that does not have a screen because it will be obsolete, you will not be able to do anything with it and your smartphone will do the job. Now that is changing because if the consumer has a vehicle with an up-to-date infotainment system, they will be able to sell it more easily and at a lower price.
Reluca Balan, director of multimedia marketing and development at Renault, says the vehicle will also fit better into the future environment of shared mobility where user profiles can follow them from car to car.
“Say I rent a car at the airport, then later take a car from where I am to downtown, then drive another car back to the airport,” Balan explains. “I will always be able to have my profile with me. It will follow me and I won’t have to adapt to each new car and learn their systems.
In developing the system, Pinel-Peschardiere says that simplicity was his main goal. “It’s all there in front of your eyes with no deep layer of actions needed to go through – with two clicks you can do it all,” he says. “This is the basic philosophy of the system and we built it on Android with Google Maps, Google Assistant and Google Play.”
Seamless user experience
In terms of hardware, the system uses the branded OpenR display with a 12.3 inch. Dashboard screen (31 cm) and 12 inches. multimedia screen. The entry-level model has a 9-in. Multimedia screen (23 cm). Both incorporate the latest generation Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with multiple 4K display capabilities and advanced connectivity with USB-C ports.
The dashboard section of the OpenR screen accommodates four different driver displays based on their priorities: driving layout, navigation layout, zen layout, and battery layout, and the display can be fully customized. It has five widgets (fuel consumption, tire pressure, distance, eco-monitor, music) and eight color combinations.
However, Pinel-Peschardiere believes that it will be the software of the system that will be the lever that will push the digital generations to buy BEVs because, like their smartphones and their mobile devices, it will be constantly updated with the latest software.
“Neither you nor I can say what will be the most wanted app in two or three years – it probably doesn’t exist yet. But with an open system like ours, neither the customer, nor in fact ourselves, has to worry about it, because when this app enters the Google store, it can be downloaded immediately.
He says the system will be so transparent that it will break the habit that many consumers have of mounting their smartphones in the dashboard because they trust their devices more than their vehicle’s outdated infotainment systems. .
“We have found in our studies of our consumers and those of other brands, that 95% of users place their phone on the dashboard because they do not trust the car’s systems,” explains Pinel-Peschardiere. “The maps, for example, are not updated and it can be very complicated. Now, with our constantly updated system, we are confident that the customer will not plug in their phone.
Google Maps also includes a specific feature for electric vehicles called Electric Route Planner. It plans an optimal route for long journeys which natively integrates charging stations.
If the set destination is a destination for which the battery level is insufficient, the system will automatically suggest a selection of available and compatible charging points along the route and suggest the best way to arrive as soon as possible.
During the journey, it updates automatically based on the vehicle’s actual energy consumption. It also warns the driver if the planned route must be changed, in the event of a breakdown of a charging station for example.
OpenR Link integrates all the functions that can be found in a smartphone or mobile device so that it can also be used as a tablet, either with a single finger (short press, long press, scroll), several fingers (pinch , zoom, etc.), or using voice recognition software.
It receives and displays notifications and allows easy navigation between its different areas (Home / Navigation, Music, Phone, Applications, Vehicle) via a menu bar at the top of the screen.
The system can be personalized like a smartphone, in particular through the use of user accounts. These allow personal profiles of individual users to change vehicle settings, Google account preferences, My Renault account settings, automatic smartphone mirroring, etc. Naturally, it is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and works by cable or as a wireless system, albeit wireless. removes the electric route planner function.
“Users can also access all these functions even if they forget their phone left at home because they have logged into their Google account”, specifies Pinel-Peschardière. “You will have your Google Calendar appointments displayed, you will have your history of searches that you have done at home, you will have your Spotify lists, and so on. Your digital life follows you right into the car.
Balan says the response from consumers in the early stages of the system’s development was received overwhelmingly positive.
“They were absolutely delighted. We invited Renault’s European customers as well as those of other brands because it was important to have as much feedback as possible, ”she explains.
“We were surprised that even in France, where people can be overprotective about their data, they were thrilled. I can quote part of what they were saying: “Google already knows everything about me because I have them on my phone.” So having this type of experience in the car enriched with driving functions specific to electric vehicles. They were thrilled. “