Renault's electric ambitions have kicked off with some rather ambitious cars, particularly in their concept phases. However, the more real-world manifestations of this have borne the Nissan badge instead, such as the fully-electric Leaf, a relatively affordable zero emissions vehicle that has been around for two full generations.
Naturally, there is also the Zoe, but thanks to its smaller size and battery capacity, it has always played second fiddle to its Nissan cousin, something of an understudy. Perhaps their parent company have not yet landed upon a production EV strategy that jives with the Renault brand. But that might change if they decide to green light the Zoe E-Sport for production.
That is, if a report by Top Gear is to be believe. The project is still at the forefront of Gilles Normand, senior vice president and head of electric vehicles at Groupe Renault. According to him, the Zoe E-Sport successfully communicated that EVs don’t have to be boring.
And as we approach 20 years into the 21st century, we’ve seen multiple automakers explore similar territory. For example, Volkswagen’s ID.3 is reported to be spawning a hot version, SEAT’s standalone Cupra brand is also embarked down a parallel path, and it’s only a matter of time until the all-electric MINI Cooper grows some horns as well.
With so much to play for, perhaps it would be foolish for Renault sit out one of the most exciting new markets in post-combustion mobility, if only for the bragging rights, especially if it overlaps a category where they arguably have the most expertise to their name: hot hatches.
First shown at the Geneva Motor Show in 2017, the Zoe E-Sport concept was the first time we witnessed what might happen if a blank cheque was allowed to form a proper hot hatch with a fully electric powertrain. Like any fast Renault product, RenaultSport’s fingerprints were all over the functional concept.
On paper, its performance seemed to defy what was possible to expect from such a compact footprint - dual electric motors resulted in 340kW and 640Nm spread across four wheels. A ruthless weight-shedding programme brought it down to 1,400kg kerb. However, it is constrained to its physical dimensions, housing an unspectacular 40kWh battery.
Clearly, as a concept car, it portended the enormous potential of electric drive, but also underlined the severe limitations - both with energy density and weight - of today’s lithium ion cells.
When fully charged, though, the Zoe E-Sport’s massive reserves of power and torque shot it to 100km/h from rest in just over 3 seconds and, after 10 seconds, would cap off at 200km/h courtesy of an electronic speed nanny.
For a production version of the concept car to keep these same promises, many of its sophisticated measures would need to be duplicated. A dual motor setup is a given, as would be similar power and performance figures to match. However, to not weigh it down, the car might require the same carbon fibre bodywork that made the Zoe E-Sport concept so lithe (relatively speaking).
Renault has the technology and means, while the very positive public response to the concept car provides ample motive, but mass producing such a car at scale could prove incredibly costly and risky should it be anything short of a sell out product. A possible remedy would be to sell it in limited numbers, a practice to which RenaultSport are no strangers. Sounds like a shoe-in.