Electric vehicles are still groping their way into the structural convenience enjoyed by ICE-powered vehicles. Not so long ago, swapping battery packs was considered one viable way to achieve consumer-friendly ease and range. Renault and Israeli start-up Better Place released the “unlimited mileage” Fluence Z.E. with swappable batteries in 2011, two years before Better Place went bankrupt; Tesla didn’t shut down its battery-swap station until June 2015. Renault’s returned to the argument of exchange with a beautiful Gallic argument called the Morphoz. Note the lines of the stout electric crossover concept in the photo above, looking reminiscent of a swoopier Fisker Ocean. Then note the same vehicle in the second photo above, stretched in front and back, now recalling a futuristic Range Rover Velar prowling Elysium that perhaps made one too many visits to Elysium’s DUB wheel gallery. And although the elongation serves specific EV purposes, there’s more to the Morphoz than that party trick.
In City mode, the Morphoz stands 4.4 meters long, about the length of a Tiguan, and gets its power from a 40-kWh battery. At the touch of a button, the Morphoz enters Travel mode, extending its wheelbase 20 centimeters while its rear fascia slides back another 20 cm. The new 4.8-meter length is almost exactly that of the aforementioned Velar, the Morphoz’s roof sitting a touch lower and its width a touch narrower than the Range Rover. Entering Travel Mode means the chassis can accept insertion of a second, 50-kWh battery pack at an automated battery station, for 90 kWh total. In City mode, the pack powers a single electric motor turning the front axle, the motor rated at 134 horsepower, for a range of 249 miles on the WLTP cycle. With the larger battery installed, the Morphoz’s motor get uprated to 214 horsepower and range increases to 435 miles. A side benefit of Travel mode is more room in the cabin for occupants and cargo during the journey.
The Morphoz can be charged with a cable or various wireless protocols. Renault says the batteries at the swap station can be used to power the grid or to store energy gathered from green sources.
Overall, the concept is heaps of fancy mixed with a few practical ingredients we’ll see on production Renaults. The Morphoz sits on the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Compact Modular Family EV (CMF-EV) skateboard platform which will spawn a retail crossover in 2021 that will be about 4.5 meters long. The thin, vertical light signature previews a coming design feature. Inside, four canary yellow seats steal the show in a high tech cabin full of recycled materials; the floor, in fact, is made from recycled yogurt pots. The rectangular steering wheel hosts a 10.2-inch touchscreen for controlling most car functions, the rest delegated to the configurable instrument panel. The L-shaped dash flows into a cabin-length center divider with its own built-in screen for infotainment. Comfort considerations include a front passenger seat that flips 90 degrees back so that the occupant can face the rear passengers, the required AI interface, Level 3 autonomy, and 5G connectivity.