Why it matters: Renault has unveiled a concept electric vehicle that’s a real-life transformer—sort of. While the Morphoz won’t be turning into a giant talking robot, its body can extend to fit a larger battery and offer more interior space.
When in its standard “City Mode,” the Morphoz features a 40kWh battery connected to a single motor, giving the car a range of 249 miles that Renault says is perfect for traveling around cities and suburbs. But that distance might not be enough for long journeys, so the car has a clever trick.
If a driver wants to increase the Morphoz’s range, they just need to visit a Renault battery station, where it can be stretched into its “Travel Mode.” The EV’s body lengthens by 8 inches using its “active bodywork,” where the side flaps move to extend the wheelbase.
In Travel Mode, an extra 50kWh battery extender pack can be placed into the floor, increasing the car’s range to 435 miles. The extra length means more legroom for passengers and space for an extra two suitcases in the trunk.
When you get back home from a long trip, "the user stops at a station to return the extra batteries and revert to the original 40 kWh capacity of the vehicle's City configuration," said Renault (via Engadget). The station will recharge the batteries ready for the next time. When not in use, the extra batteries would support the national grid and could be used to store electricity from renewable sources, or to power streetlights and nearby buildings.
In addition to the special stations, the Morphoz can be charged by wireless induction at home and while driving on roads equipped with induction chargers. It also supports level 3 autonomous driving, referred to as “eyes-off.” Those behind the wheel can watch a movie or use their phone but are required to intervene if required, so no falling asleep.
Other futuristic features include a cabin that can move around depending on the passengers and driver, which the car detects. There’s also a retractable steering wheel that opens up the “living screen” instrument panel, and the interior includes plenty of recycled materials.
Being a concept, the Morphoz may never hit the production line, but some of its features will likely make their way to other cars.
In other EV news, Citroën recently unveiled a 2-seat electric vehicle that costs $22 per month and doesn't require a license.