How Renault's Lego gearbox changed the hybrid game

The bigger electric machine is mounted where a transverse engine’s conventional clutch would be. The second is a meaty, gear-driven starter-generator that as well as starting the petrol engine and regenerating power for the hybrid battery can also help propel the car when needed, even to speeds above 70mph.

Delve deeper and the complexity underpinning E-Tech Hybrid goes further. The traction motor is linked to a two-speed gearbox (this allows for a more compact motor) and the petrol engine a four-speed.

But clever combinations of E-Tech Hybrid’s three ‘torque sources’ mean the system can function in a total of 15 different drive modes, including electric-only and engine-only cruising. In future iterations, if it makes sense, engineers say there may be even more.

The first-generation E-Tech Hybrid system, making 144bhp in total and linked to a normally aspirated 1.6-litre Alliance petrol engine with a 200V 1.2kWh battery, was launched three years ago in Renault’s smaller cars and remains current. You can find it today in the Clio, Captur, Arkana and Dacia Jogger.

The second-gen system, which makes 198bhp in total, is based around a purpose-designed 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine feeding a 400V 2.0kWh battery. This later, more advanced system is used in the recently launched Austral, will come soon in the larger Rafale, and you might also find it in the new Espace SUV, if Renault UK were ever to reverse a decision not to sell the model here.

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