When you buy a car you typically opt for what suits your needs. That’s why you’ll find multiple size tiers in manufacturers’ ranges. But the Renault Morphoz – which we previewed in France ahead of its Geneva Motor Show reveal (well, when that show was set to take place, as it was since cancelled) – bucks that trend, offering the ability to physically extend, or morph, hence the name, at the touch of a button. It can suit your needs for city driving, range-extended long-distance with the family, and so on.
We’ve never seen a car transform before our eyes at the touch of a button. So however far-fetched this concept may be right now, it encapsulates a lot of future thinking – from the car itself, to the wider ecosystem of energy retention and sharing. Here’s why the Renault Morphoz is the coolest car you’ll see this week. Or even this year.
What is the Renault Morphoz?
Renault has a recent history of releasing concept cars: from the Trezor two-seater coupe at the 2016 Paris show; to the RS 2027 future F1 car at the 2017 Shanghai show; to the Symbioz self-driving concept at the 2018 Frankfurt show; and a trio of eco/mobility cars – the EZ-Go, EZ-Pro, EZ-Ultimo – shown at the 2018 Paris show.
The Morphoz is the fifth car in this concept series, with a focus on “providing exactly what you need at the time you need it,” according to François Leboine, Renault’s Design Concept Cars Director, in an interview with Pocket-lint.
The Morphoz is built on the CMF EV modular platform, co-created with Nissan, which represents generation 2.0 of the company’s electric vehicles. Of course you won’t see the Morphoz on the road any time soon – if at all – but it is built upon real technology, which will be the footprint of some future Renault and Nissan vehicles.
Why does the Morphoz extend?
“The idea is to have something every day that is matched to your needs,” says Leboine. “It’s created for 80 per cent city-life driving, but can suddenly change and offer the ability to go further”.
Which is where the idea of modularity comes into play. At the touch of a button – loosely demoed as being an app on your phone in the future (although it was a physical controller at this stage) – the front extends, offering the ability to supplement the existing 400km/248m range (40kWh battery) to a far more capable 700km/435m (an additional 50kWh battery to make a total of 90kWh).
Meanwhile the rear of the car can also extend, opening out the interior and providing more boot space as a result. The interior is a stunning proposition: the front passenger seat can flip around – literally, in a somersault-like motion – to make a three-seat open-plan area in the rear of the car.
The way in which all this manifests is the most impressive part about the Morphoz. The physical motion isn’t just elegant, the way the car reveals new forms by the merging of rear grilles, or vibrant yellow sections are revealed behind panels, makes for an eye-catching transformation.
Where do the batteries go?
Now, you might be wondering how the range-extending battery finds its way into the Morphoz. Renault’s concept here is to step well beyond the norm of a full-time built-in battery, creating a wider ecosystem.
“The Morphoz is the tip of the iceberg,” says Leboine when introducing the automated loading/unloading concept. The idea is for a loading station to contain batteries connected to a wider network, where they can provide energy when not in vehicle use, which can then be loaded into or out of the vehicle.
That might sound far-fetched, but it’s already a reality in China: EV-maker Nio offers battery-swap stations for some of its cars, fitted in as little as three minutes. This also removes the depreciation of battery life over time, as the company can introduce new, fresh cells into the system.
Is the Renault Morphoz real?
Renault has made the car and it is functional, but it’s only a concept and not a road-legal production car. If you were going to be at the 2020 Geneva Motor Show then that would have been your first chance to glimpse the concept. But as that show was cancelled by the Swiss government due to the Coronavirus outbreak, we suspect that it’ll be future shows around the world where you’ll be able to get the first look in person.
It’s not all make-believe by any means though. A number of the concepts about the car are particularly intriguing: the wave-when-approaching action to open the doors, for example; the ‘LivingSpace’ interior, which includes user profiles from mobile phones, including an augmented reality screen overlay for the driver.
From interior to exterior and beyond: the Renault Morphoz is a playful take on the future of driving and mobility, in an eye-catching form that’ll certainly get people talking about what an electric vehicle could be.