Designers are increasingly challenged to balance aerodynamic data with distinctive brand styling

Renault presents a forward look at what fuel-sipping passenger cars of the future could look like with the EOLAB Concept. Debuting at the 2014 Paris Motor Show, the EOLAB explores ways to attain a lot of driving distance with ultra-low fuel consumption. The automaker has combined around 100 technological and engineering advances to make the EOLAB capable of 1 litre/100 km (.26 gal./62 miles) of driving range (those figures derived from range data homologated in accordance with appropriate legislation)

Renault says that a primary goal of the EOLAB was to explore technologies to make the car affordable and able to be produced in large numbers within the next 10 years. Designers and engineers identified and targeted three areas key to solving performance and affordability goals; refined aerodynamics, weight saving and Z.E. Hybrid technology (petrol/electricity power unit).

While it might seem true, aerodynamics and styling don’t necessarily always mesh together well. The most efficient shape for cutting through the air from an engineer’s view isn’t necessarily the most beautiful or interesting to look at. Renault designers had a tall task with styling the EOLAB to both look good and have a very low coefficient of drag (a measurement of how easily a shape moves through air) Many of the aero efficiency devices such as the front spoiler and rear flaps were designed to fit flush with the body and articulate when the car was being driven, something like how flaps work on airplanes. This way the look of the car could be maintained and aerodynamic efficiency gained when it was needed.

Weight saving was another key area of concern to achieve the driving range target. With an overall weight of 400kg (about 881 pounds) the EOLAB had to balance overall size, material cost and durability concerns. A tricky formula to balance since changing one factor skews the others as well. One example is the magnesium roof weighing less than 9 pounds. While more expensive than steel, it is cheaper than titanium and one of the lightest structural metals available.

The EOLAB isn’t a fully electric vehicle but does include a new compact version of Renault’s Z.E. Hybrid technology. The electric/petrol style combination power unit is becoming more and more common on roads today. Renault says the EOLAB can achieve zero-emission mobility for trips less than 37 miles with speeds up to 74 mph. Renault have devised an easy way for drivers to get the best performance out of the power unit, a “weekday” mode and “weekend” mode. Weekday mode is geared for commutes and maximizes electric power use zero tailpipe emissions. Weekend mode blends both the electric and internal combustion engine for longer trips.

One area where the weight savings mantra is truly tested in with interior comfort. Typically sound insulation, seats, trim and electronics can quickly bulk up a vehicle. Renault collaborated with seat specialist Faurecia who created a 35-percent lighter seat frame and covered it in a rigid 3D pattern embedded fabric which required less structural foam.

Something you’re likely going to see more of is the swivel mounted iPad style touch display. The EOLAB has an 11-inch style touch tablet on a column which either the driver or passenger can access. The interface automatically splits when features like the backup camera are engaged. The screen also displays a real-time “radar-style” efficiency graphic which monitors pedal use, aerodynamics, road gradient, rolling resistance and electricity use. The system provides feedback to the driver as to how consumption and efficiency may be improved.

As the name says, EOLAB really represents a rolling idea lab which Renault will likely use to test ad develop individual technologies for upcoming vehicles. With their close ties to Nissan, it isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine the EOLAB as a future version of the Leaf, at least from a design perspective.