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Renault Scenic Vision Is the 2030 EV I'd Like to Buy Right Now – Only With LFP Cells

Whenever I discuss electric cars with my fellow automotive writers, I see that not even one of them believes BEVs (battery electric vehicles) will solve all problems. Not as they currently are, at least. Some cannot let go of the idea of a combustion engine, of just filling up the fuel tank and going places. They do not see that the combustion engine is dead, regardless of what it burns. Those who do see that think the massive battery pack does not make sense. Renault answered that by proposing the most sensible electric car to date: the Scénic Vision.
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At first, the rumor was that this concept would use a combustion engine to burn hydrogen, which is one of the most stupid ideas ever proposed for production vehicles. I have already explained why in an article that dealt with that possibility, and I’m glad it was not confirmed.

Instead, what Renault presented was an electric car concept that had to embody answers for safety, environment, and inclusion. Luca de Meo said that this was what inspired its development process at the ChangeNOW 2022 event on May 19. The Renault CEO proposed to his designers and engineers that they materialized these goals into something people could touch and feel. The car would present them as something real, not just desirable ideas that never turn into more than just empty speech.

The Scénic Vision is the result of that effort. It anticipates a production car that will be on sale by the end of 2023 or in 2024. And that is not important. It also has an interior that Renault’s vehicles should offer starting in 2028. That also does not matter. The really crucial bit of the concept car is its powertrain, which De Meo said would be for sale in 2030. It is a pity it will not arrive earlier.

Renault calls this innovative powertrain H2-Tech. It consists of a 40-kWh battery pack that feeds the 160 kW (215 hp) electric motor that the Megane E-Tech Electric already uses. Theoretically, it could be even smaller and lighter, but Renault probably preferred not to push so much. The Mazda MX-30 has a 35.5 kWh battery pack, which gives it a range of 200 kilometers (124 miles) under the WLTP cycle. That’s more than enough to commute and even to visit nearby cities. The Scénic Vision may have about the same range with its 40-kWh battery pack.

When its hypothetical drivers need to go farther, a 16-kW fuel cell provides the extra electricity for the vehicle to drive up to 800 kilometers (497 miles). We have no idea if that’s what the car offers with a fully charged battery pack and a full tank of hydrogen, or if the fuel cell alone can make it travel that far. Renault did not clarify that. We suspect that the former is the correct option.

From the curse of burning hydrogen, Renault’s concept car became the electric car of the future. It is the first one that really worries about the environment, carbon emissions, and efficiency, while still retaining the buying model that is also a problem for nature. The only company that proposes to change that so far is Riversimple.

If the Scénic Vision were to be put for sale, you would still have to buy it and eventually replace it. However, you would carry a smaller battery pack around, which has half the size of those in electric cars with about 300 mi (483 km) of range. That’s good because you will also carry half the weight of such a battery pack, making the EV more efficient. You will also pay half the price for it and need just half the raw materials that went into its making. All that without giving up on how far you can go on a daily basis.

If you need to travel more, you just fill up the hydrogen tank. Unfortunately, Renault did not disclose how big it is. We only know that it gave the carmaker a good excuse for the Scénic Vision not to have a frunk: the hydrogen tank is placed a bit ahead of the front axle. Renault said that it takes five minutes to replenish the reservoir, which is about the same time a NIO spends to swap a battery pack, for example. No NIO can travel that far with a single full charge.

The good thing about this hybrid solution is that living with the smaller battery pack for most of your daily needs and even short trips is feasible, especially if you can charge it at home. If you can’t, having a hydrogen station nearby is mandatory. Renault has that in mind when it says that “2030 and beyond” will be the right moment for such a vehicle, “once the network of hydrogen stations is large enough.”

What the company misses is that this network will only emerge if you create demand for it. In Renault’s defense, HYVIA is doing exactly that, only limited to commercial vehicles at this point. If a car similar to the Scénic Vision were put for sale, those able to charge it at home or close to it could create the critical mass necessary for companies to invest in hydrogen stations on some roads.

Being a hybrid solution would allow the owners of such a vehicle not to need hydrogen for everyday situations, such as FCEVs do. In fact, it could take advantage of the higher energy efficiency of BEVs without creating a 2-ton vehicle and use the fuel cells only they were strictly necessary. That may be the way to go with FCEVs.

I currently own a plug-in hybrid with a lousy electric range and a combustion engine that I try never to use (only on the road or when it runs out of juice). If a production version of the Scénic Vision came with LFP cells or any other tech that was not subject to thermal runaways, I’d love to buy one. Now that Renault introduced the idea, it would be a pity if somebody else decided it was worth selling something like that before the French company was bold enough to do so. DeLorean seems to be a candidate.

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