There’s nothing like a new concept car to fire up the imagination and Renault’s recently unveiled Morphoz does just that. For starters, the electric-powered car increases its length depending on what you want to use it for. Not a bad start.
Nipping down the shops for some food? Or picking the up the kids from school? Normal length mode will do nicely. Going on a long weekend run away somewhere? You’ll probably want to add a few centimetres for those suitcases and with this car you can. Yep, the Renault Morphoz is an extender; it’s designed to go-anywhere and has a size, plus battery range to suit the occasion.
For pootling around town there’s a 40kWh battery that’s mated to a single electric motor. However, family cars frequently need to be loaded up with more than just shopping. So, for longer runs the Morphoz extends its bonnet and boot for Travel Mode. Compared to the 249-mile range of the around-town City Mode the Travel option beefs up the range to 435 miles. To do that the car needs additional battery power, which comes in the shape of a Travel Extender battery pack. It provides an additional 50kWh of power to supplement the existing 40kWh.
The additional good news on that front is that Renault has also designed the car with a clever battery exchange system for just such a task, which is just one part of a bigger electric ecosystem it has planned for the future. Renault wants to do a lot more with its batteries than just get you from A to B. At the car’s launch, Renault engineers explained how the Morphoz’s batteries not only power the car, but could also be used for supplying juice to appliances around the home.
There’s a bigger picture here too, with Renault aiming to make more from the Vehicle to Grid (V2G) potential that comes with battery-powered vehicles. While the Renault Morphoz can hold more batteries when it’s in extended mode and ready for a long-range run, equally the same power packs can be switched out at a charging station and be used for other purposes in the wider community.
Picking over the Morphoz at the unveil it was clear to see that Renault has packed an awful lot of innovation into the car, aside from the extendable design and battery quirks. The vehicle itself is based on Renault’s new modular CMF-EV 100% electric platform, which will be used as the basis for producing a clutch of jungle-fresh models in the near future.
With a length that can be increased by 400mm and a wheelbase extended by 200mm the front-wheel drive car certainly looks the part. Big 22-inch tyres at each corner cut up into the body giving the overall look a chunky but squat feel. Better still, despite the fact that the Renault Morphoz is a concept we did get to see it extend. The conversion took mere moments and was a deliciously silky-smooth manoeuvre that was pretty cool to witness.
That funky edge continues on the inside, which is rather more outlandish and delivers an air of retro 1970s style, if there ever was such a thing. At the same time though this is blended with lots of current tech. For example, the Morphoz is designed to do away with conventional keys, with your smartphone replacing those as a digital version. Renault thinks this will be particularly useful as it expects car sharing to increase. Multiple drivers will therefore be able to receive a unique unlocking code prior to their journey.
Before you even get in you’ll be able to gesture (politely we presume) at the Morphoz and the on-board sensors will detect who it is and tailor the car to suit your personal preferences. A welcome sequence also unlocks and opens the doors, which incidentally open so wide that inside meets outside. Simply hop in, place your smartphone in the centre console and AI will use the data from that to get you on your way.
Once you’re behind the wheel things take on an even more unusual feel. There’s an oblong steering wheel with a 10.2-inch screen in the middle of it. Level 3 autonomy would, says Renault, assist you with your driving while in-car entertainment takes centre stage. In fact, after we’d seen the opposing front and rear doors open up for the first time the piece de resistance was a passenger seat that moved from a forwards position into a rear-facing angle using a smooth and stylish flip. Perfect for in-car banter.
Renault’s vision would not only make use of AI to improve surroundings inside the car, it aims to keep things safe on the outside. Door mirrors are replaced with cameras, while light displays on the inner doors and windows notify the driver that there’s a pedestrian or cyclist close by. Back on the inside, each passenger can customise their journey experience by using their smartphone to tweak music settings to suit each seat in the car, via the MY Renault app. On-board connectivity, incidentally, is 5G.
Granted, the interior trim might not be to everyone’s taste, with the yellow seat coverings and carpets doubtless putting the fear of God into anyone with small children who like to snack. Imagine melted chocolate on those. Nevertheless, it’s good to know Renault designers have done the decent thing and given a nod to caring for the planet. Recycled materials are in abundance and central to that is an interior floor that’s fashioned from used yoghurt pots. Nice touch.
The Renault Morphoz wouldn't look out of place in a Transformers movie, but sadly it’s currently going to remain a pure conceptual creation for now. But there’s plenty going on with the design that could become a reality, even though that steering wheel has been giving us nightmares. It’s reminiscent of the long-forgotten Austin Allegro’s ‘quartic’ design, which is retro styling that doesn’t need resurrecting this week, next week or ever for that matter…