Carlos Tavares, Renault's Chief Operating Officer, has confirmed that the automaker is in the early stages of developing a low-cost hybrid drivetrain.
Tavares did not release any additional information about what to expect from Renault's first-ever hybrid. It could be an advanced plug-in system or it could be merely a micro-hybrid setup similar to PSA's acclaimed HYbrid4.
The news comes as a big surprise because Renault has traditionally eschewed hybrid technology in favor of electric powerplants. However, the drivetrain will help Renault reach its goal of lowering its fleet-wide CO2 emission rating to less than 100 grams per kilometer in 2016, and less than 80 grams per kilometer by 2020.
Another factor that pushed Renault towards the technology is that the French government offers significant bonuses towards the purchase of a new hybrid. Since Renault is presently one of the only European automakers without a hybrid in its lineup, it risks losing sales to competitors because its cars are not eligible for the government-issued discount.
When viewed in that light, the development of a hybrid is more of a necessity than a choice and Tavares has made it clear that Renault hasn't changed its mind about the technology.
"We still consider hybrid cars to be a temporary stopgap on the way to full electric cars," said the COO at a conference in Versailles, France.