The electric Renault Zoe is from 3 months from its commercial launch. Most people would imagine that all development work is now frozen, with people now concentrating on quality control and making sure is right, but that is not the case. The production facility still lacks an important part: the factory which will build the battery cells and assemble them into packs. But nobody’s much worrying about it. The Renault Zoe was expected to use the same cells as the Nissan Leaf, and all the world knows that this car sales are much below expectations. So it should be easy to divert some of the production from the Japanese factory that supplies the Leaf to the Zoe. Renault and Nissan are partners, it could be done, but it won’t.
Renault has acknowledged this week that the Zoe will get cells from South Korean LG. The news come as a shock. Everybody will agree that it’s highly unusual to change such an essential supplier only 3 months from the commercial launch of a car. We’ll see if that causes any delay, but it’s quite evident Renault and LG have been in talks for a while. Besides, the main question is the reason of this sudden change. The battery in the Nissan Leaf is said to be robust, it doesn’t even need thermal management. Could the cells from LG be even better, or maybe cheaper?
Our guess is that the change is due to financial reasons. Renault was expected to start a new battery factory in Flins (one hour NW of Paris), and that calls for a large investment. With EV sales still very soft, buying from an external supplier may look like a safer option. Without reducing Nissan’s capacities in case of a sudden strong rise in EV sales. There are still talks about a battery factory in France, with shared ownership by Renault and LG, but nobody should be surprised if Renault finds this new arrangement much to its liking and make it last. At least till 2014, the Renault Zoe will build LG batteries built in South Korea.