A new concept car created by Renault might just be the direction that design for electric vehicles should be headed in. The little e-Plein Air reimagines the former model for the demands of the modern world, all with a little bit of style.
Dreamt up by Renault Classic, Renault Design and Melun Rétro Passion for the 10th anniversary of the Renault 4L festival, it is almost a copy of the original Renault 4L Plein Air made in 1968.
Unlike the Renault 4L, the multi-million selling model, the 4L Plein Air slid under the radar somewhat. With only 500 of the cars built, it’s legacy was pretty much cemented as a beach runaround for young adults.
The little kit car never caught the masses’ attention in the way the French car giant had once hoped. But could the electric reimagining give the 4L Plein Air a new lease of life?
We don’t know if the car is set for production just yet, and the specs released are minimal, but what we do know is that Renault changed very little of the original design, just putting in a digital display instead of the old dials, slightly changing the grille and removing the rear seats, to accommodate the 17bhp electric motor, which kicks out 57Nm of torque and 6.1kWh lithium-ion battery pack from the Twziy Urban 80 quadricycle.
They have also gone for bright blue seats, which is one of the criticisms of ours, but a minor detail nonetheless.
You would also be disappointed if you hoped you could reach any real speeds in the little car, with an expected top speed of around 50 mph, and a full charge only managing 60 miles.
The lack of any kind of roof also wipes out the British market, because well, it rains a lot in Britain.
However, despite its small flaws, the cute Renault e-Plein Air seems to be offering something new to the fairly clunky market in which it exists (sorry Tesla worshippers).
Part of the issue with most of the current electric cars is they all look like they’ve been dragged out of a Futurama episode, with blue LED light strips running down the side of a chassis which looks like it should belong on a boat, and most of the cars are so high tech that they’re practically road-safe spacecrafts.
What lies beneath a car is obviously important, but if it looks rubbish, chances are it won’t sell.
To put it frankly, who has ever taken a look at a Nissan Leaf and thought “would love to give that a spin”.
There are several other practical issues with electric cars at the moment, such as the time it takes to ‘refuel’ with electricity, and the fact that the number of charging points available is way off the number needed to make owning an electric car not a complete ball ache.
And a slightly less fundamental issue exists, in that they are so eerily quiet that it does make HEKKTA fear for the unassuming pensioner stepping out into the road with her shopping.
But the biggest factor we feel that’s missing from the market is a little bit of soul.
It seems everything involved with the market is all about figures; how far that can go, how fast it can go, how long does it take to charge, how many gadgets do I have to play with on my 50 inch display screen…
It’s all too much. The little e-Plein Air feels like an attempt by Renault to bring a bit of fun and soul to the table.
The time has surely come for car manufacturers to create electric cars that are as elegant and beautiful as an old classic; a car which when you look at it, you want to drive!
Elegant and beautiful may not be the words one would use to describe the e-Plein, but you get the gist.
If the cars people want to drive just so happen to be electric, HEKKTA can’t help feeling you’d see more people behind the wheel of them. Good design certainly has a big part to play in dragging our bums out of petrol run motors and into the electrics.
Let’s just hope they make a few!