Renault unveils Morphoz concept car

by Autocar Pro News Desk , 02 Mar 2020

Renault unveiled its Morphoz concept car, illustrating its vision of future electric mobility in the years beyond 2025. Smart, modular, this crossover vehicle is able to physically and technologically adapt whether it’s being used for a short commute, trip to the shops or a longer journey.

Laurens van den Acker, EVP, Corporate Design Groupe Renault said: “Bold in its modularity, innovative in its design, human centric through its ability to facilitate sharing and exchange, the Morphoz concept perfectly embodies the new Livingtech philosophy of Renault’s Design. Technology in all its forms - design, on-board intelligence, connectivity, interior layout - serves a new travel experience for all vehicle users. From the everyday to the weekend and holiday experience. The Morphoz concept is a truly living experience.”

The vehicle is able to recognise and welcome the driver but is fully shareable which features a number of autonomous technologies for improved convenience and safety. Morphoz takes advantage of the Alliance's future CMF-EV modular electric platform to offer several configurations of power, capacity and range, as well as habitability and trunk volume.

According to Gilles Normand, SVP, electric vehicles and mobility services, Groupe Renault, “Morphoz features our upcoming, high performance electric cars. The dedicated modular CMF-EV platform optimises the electric performances of the vehicle, and the long wheelbase with its flat floor and wheels that are rejected in all the 4 corners offer new possibilities for striking design and increased roominess.”

It pre-figures a new family of Renault electric models that will arrive from 2021. Not merely an exploratory vision of mobility. In its design, details and interior presentation, it also heralds a new family of Renault electric models for the coming years. Acting like a virtual personal assistant, the artificial intelligence on the Renault Morphoz concept can be called up and managed in three ways: by touching the screens or console, by hand gestures or by voice.

An adaptable electric platform
The CMF-EV allows engineers to design, build, adjust, and fine-tune electric vehicles more efficiently. The innovative architecture features a long wheelbase with wheels at the very corners of the vehicle, reduced overhangs and a flat floor, all combined to create a radical and striking appearance. A streamlined battery means the vehicle can be designed closer to the ground and with a lower roof to deliver improvements to aerodynamic performance. The CMF-EV chassis and structure combination is optimised for dynamic driving with batteries located beneath the floor in the rear, ensuring a low centre of gravity.

A short bonnet results in a longer cabin and delivers an elegant design while the onboard experience is further enhanced by the unique interior. The position of the electric powertrain means the dashboard can be streamlined and pushed forward to free up additional storage and space for passengers – especially leg room for rear passengers. With no transmission tunnel the flat floor allows for even more leg room.

This configurable concept can transform into two different modes: from the shorter City form to the longer Travel version. It is fully adaptable to fit the needs of drivers and passengers, with City mode fitted with the right battery capacity for day-to-day commuting or shopping, while in Travel it is able to accommodate the added capacity needed for long distance journeys.

The City version is 4.40m long with a 2.73m wheelbase, a record for the vehicle length, while still being light and cost-efficient. A 40kWh battery is fitted as standard, with a range of up to 249 miles, more than enough for daily urban and suburban use.

It features a specific light signature, which includes additional LED segments. Its style is more striking, with a short bonnet, sculptured bumpers and short overhang which pushes the wheels out to the corners, demonstrating the agility of an electric-powered city car. At the same time, the onboard experience matches a vehicle usually found in the luxury segment.

The Travel version is 4.80m long with a wheelbase which is proportionately longer at 2.93m, allowing it to accommodate additional battery capacity and provide a spacious interior. There’s more leg room for passengers, along with enough space for two more suitcases, while the design is further optimised with a specific tapered front-end and profile helping to improve aerodynamic performance.

The Travel Extender battery pack offers an additional 50kWh of power, for a total capacity of 90kWh and a total range of 435 miles, perfect for those travelling longer distances. The vehicle extends and converts to Travel mode at a pre-determined battery station where the undertray of the vehicle opens and extra batteries can be installed in just a few seconds. Once back, the driver stops at a station to return the extra batteries and revert to the original 40kWh capacity and the smaller dimensions of City configuration. The station then recharges the batteries while putting them to additional use until they are needed by another vehicle, such as storing electricity from renewable energy sources or lighting infrastructure or an adjoining building.

Adaptive cabin for driver and passengers
As the driver approaches, the concept runs a light sequence to show the driver has been detected and recognised. A wave is all that is needed to unlock it and open its doors. The reverse-hinged opening combined with no B-pillar makes it easy for passengers to get in the cabin. Like the bodywork, the cabin can convert to adapt to the requirements of all the occupants.

The Morphoz concept features a futuristic steering wheel, with a 10.2-inch screen at its centre displaying the main driving and safety information, allowing the surround dashboard to be free of an instrument panel and multimedia screens. However, at the request of the driver, in manual driving mode or autonomous mode, the instrument panel folds out smoothly from the dashboard into view, showcasing a single, wide L-shaped screen with driving and multimedia information.

While the driver remains facing the road at all times, it has a unique system to allow all other passengers to interact during a journey. A Share mode allows passengers to sit face-to-face to talk or share an activity. To achieve this, the symmetric front passenger seat turns completely to face the rear. The passengers can then make use of the cross-compartment centre console and the screen to access their chosen media.

The adaptable seating functionality is featured throughout the cabin. When the concept switches from City to Travel mode, the rear passenger seats automatically move backwards to take advantage of the extra space. This gives passengers more leg room and makes it easier for them to sit in the armchair-like seating around a table, where the screen on the centre console which is shared across the cabin takes on the role of the table.

Level 3 autonomy
The Renault MORPHOZ concept is fitted with Level 3 autonomous driving. The advanced technologies allow the driver to release the steering wheel and handover control of the vehicle to the autonomous system in a number of defined situations and on authorised roads, such as motorways or in traffic jams.

The technology is capable of keeping a controlled distance from the vehicle in front, staying in lane on bends, changing lanes to overtake and move in congestion. The system still requires the driver to be able to take back control in a few seconds in the event of potential hazards or when the vehicle sensors are no longer able to read the road trajectory correctly such as in bad weather or the absence of road markings.

With Level 3 autonomous systems, the driver is free to take their hands off the wheel and eyes off the road once the vehicle has taken control. However, they are unable to use any screen, such as a tablet or smartphone, other than those directly in front of them for other activities; such as dictating an e-mail or reading.

Designed for efficiency
In both Travel and City modes, the Morphoz blends the attributes of a saloon, SUV and coupé. This unique mix of styles is made possible by the use of the all-new CMF-EV modular platform which has been specially designed for its electric powertrain. The bodywork has an elegant Ivory Gold metallic finish and Electric Yellow details which contrast with the gloss black of the interior.

The wheels combine diamond-effect wheels and wheel trims which allows the sidewalls of the 22-inch tyres to be partially covered, to give the wheel assembly a more fluid design. The wide, fully enclosed wheels improve the aerodynamic flow and improve the efficiency. The tyres are optimised to reduce rolling resistance.

In City mode, it features a slim front wing, but when Travel mode is selected the vertical section expands as the bodywork and wheelbase lengthen. Its primary role is to display the capacity meter of the onboard batteries but its black and yellow finish also makes it stand out from the rest of the bodywork. A symbol of the vehicle’s increased range and power, this new design feature will appear on some of the Renault electric vehicles in the future. The design is a nod of recognition to the history of Renault, a reminder of the side ventilation grilles which appeared on several models between 1910 and 1920, such as the Type DG, which had no need for ventilation via the front end panel – similar to electric cars today.

Instead of door mirrors, it  is equipped with digital HD cameras. The images they provide are projected onto interior screens and used as inputs to the artificial intelligence, which combines them with data from external sensors to warn the driver of potential hazards.

Sustainable mobility
Broadening the availability and possibility of owning and using these electric vehicles is paramount and goes beyond just transport, but encompassing habits, technologies and applications. Changes rely on innovation, public authority regulatory shifts and consumer choice to adopt new modes of travel.

While the mobility revolution is a cleaner revolution with the advent of electric powertrains, zero emissions vehicles are only part of the story, sitting at the heart of an electric ecosystem which includes batteries and infrastructure. Renault has long known this to be true and made a strategic proposal before anyone else.

Futuristic steering wheel
The clear glass with illuminated lines, which forms the inner part of the futuristic steering wheel, houses touch-sensitive control buttons with haptic feedback and allows the driver to access the multi sense settings. The floating dashboard extends around the front part of the cabin as far as the door inserts to surround the occupants. Thanks to the CMF-EV platform, it is closer to the windscreen and narrower than a traditional dashboard, which means more space for the driver and front passenger. This added space enables the front passenger seat to rotate and allows front occupant to sit facing the rear passengers in Share mode. This functionality is something which has been part past models and featured on the first generation Espace in the 1980s.

The greater sense of space is further enhanced by the driving mode selector lever usually found on an electric vehicle replaced by four touch buttons (P, R, N and D) at the head of the console.

Like the All-New Zoe’s seat fabric, the cabin in the Renault Morphoz uses a selection of recycled materials: wood for the dashboard, plastic for the inner doors and fabric for the seats.

Dual use batteries
The electric vehicle has a major role in energy transition as part of a smarter, increasingly comprehensive electric ecosystem. So much so that this role now extends beyond just the driving and the home charging point. With the Morphoz concept, it is now looking at a different area: the dual use of batteries. When not being used for driving, the Morphoz’s batteries remain in the car but can power appliances in the house or the local area via smart charging devices and V2G (Vehicle to Grid) bi-directional technology. Batteries used in the extended Travel mode are taken out of the vehicle and stored in a charging station for use in other vehicles or to power equipment such as self-service bicycle charging stations or street lighting.