Morphoz concept expands from city car to highway traveler
Renault has offered its take on what personal mobility might look like from 2025, with an electric vehicle that can morph between city and extended travel modes, can be wirelessly charged, and is ready for ride sharing. The company says that we should look at the Morphoz crossover as more than a mere concept, but as a precursor to future Renault electrics.
Renault's existing fleet of electric vehicles comprises the Twizy quadricycle, the Zoe urban car, the new Twingo city car, the Kangoo and Master vans, and the RSM SM3 Z.E. in South Korea and the City K-ZE in China. But its upcoming family of EVs will be based on a modular CMF-EV electric platform.
The Morphoz concept will adapt to different driving needs, in that it will present itself as a City car for the most part with enough juice in the battery for daily commutes but can then expand into a longer Travel vehicle that can accommodate an extra battery pack for long distance journeys.
In City mode, the vehicle is 4.4 m (14.4 ft) long, 2 m (6.5 ft) wide and 1.55 m (5 ft) high, and is home to a 40 kWh battery pack for up to 400 km (about 250 mi) of per charge range. The Morphoz includes induction charging technology for cable-free top-ups using a system installed at home, at compatible car parks or even on suitably-equipped roads.
An onboard artificial intelligence system will fire off a light sequence when a driver approaches, to confirm that it has detected and recognized an authorized user, with gestures used to unlock and open the reverse-hinged doors. The AI can also mine info from a docked smartphone, with appropriate user authorization of course, to perform personalized tasks like optimizing an itinerary or helping with planning while en route to a holiday destination.
The steering wheel is home to a 10.2-inch display that shows driving and safety info, but the driver can choose to move system and multimedia information to a surround dash. The passenger seat up front, meanwhile, can be rotated to face those sitting in individual seats in the rear. A raised center console runs through the compartment so that passengers can play games, control in-car entertainment or adjust environmental systems on the touchscreen panel. The driver is expected to always face the road ahead though.
Recycled materials have been used throughout the interior, such as wood for the dash, plastic for the inside of the doors and fabric on the seating, and 5G wireless connectivity is included.
The vehicle stamps its electric identity with a short hood, closed radiator grille and sculpted bumpers, and comes with LED accenting. There are no door mirrors to spoil the lines, with digital high definition cameras sending images of what's behind onto displays inside the car instead. Data from sensors combine with the camera feed to warn the driver of potential hazards.
Moving to Travel mode increases the length to 4.8 m (15.7 ft), the trunk is stretched out and the air intakes on the bumper are reduced for better aero efficiency on the highway. Renault says that this transition will take place at a special station, where a flap in the underfloor section opens up so that a 50 kWh Travel Extender battery pack can be installed "in just a few seconds."
The Morphoz then drives out of the station with a per charge range of 700 km (435 mi) of motorway use, while also offering occupants some extra legroom as the rear passenger seats automatically move back. When the extended trip is over, the user goes back to the special station to return the Travel Extender battery pack (and presumably pay any battery hire charges) before heading home in City car configuration.
Renault says that the station will keep Travel Extender packs topped up for customers, and also put between use batteries to work lighting the infrastructure, powering a self service bicycle charging station, or acting as storage for renewable energy sources.
And when parked up at home, it's envisioned that the City mode batteries can help reduce electricity bills via vehicle-to-grid bi-directional technologies.
The Morphoz will come with Level 3 autonomy cooked in, meaning that the driver can opt for the car to motor along itself "on authorized roads, such as on a motorway or in traffic jams." The self-driving tech will allow the car to keep its distance from the vehicle in front, for example, keep within lanes (even on bends) and navigate safely through stop/start traffic jams. But the driver will be ready to take control at any time.
When rules and regulations open up roads to self-driving cars, Renault expects to be able to include Level 4 autonomy in its vehicles, which could allow privately-owned vehicles to be opened up to ride-shares when not in use, like 2017's Symbioz concept, potentially earning the owner some extra cash when the car would otherwise just be parked.
Though such a bold concept could easily be written off as an automotive flight of fancy, Renault says that the Morphoz concept should be viewed as an indication of things to come. It will be interesting to see how that vision gets tweaked, chopped and otherwise refined as the company moves towards 2025 and beyond.