Renault may not have much of an impact to U.S. motorists, but thanks to their partnership with Nissan, they have a large part to play in the future of electric vehicles.

The French company has been a market leader in the European light commercial vehicle (LCV) market since 1998, so it's only natural that one of their new Z.E. range of EVs would be a small, all-electric panel van. The Kangoo Express Z.E. should hit the European market in mid 2011.

Renault and Nissan

The French and Japanese manufacturers have worked together on several projects since the start of their partnership in 1999. Much of the development for the 2011 Nissan Leaf was done on a converted Versa platform, which underpins Renault's Clio, one of Europe's most popular subcompacts.

There is even the possibility that Renault could provide the platforms for future Nissan and Infiniti sports and luxury EVs, having received positive comments to their DeZir Concept, due to be shown at the 2010 Paris Motor Show next month.

The bottom line is that Renault could have a lot of influence on future Stateside-bound EVs. And given the latest details about the Kangoo Express Z.E, we hope that includes pricing.

€20,000 before incentives

Renault have revealed that their Kangoo Express Z.E. will cost only €20,000, and that's before any government incentives have been taken into consideration. This works out as only $26,800. The French tax incentive brings this down to little over $20,000, almost $5,000 less than Nissan's own Leaf after the $7,500 federal incentive.

Of course, you get three fewer seats and considerably less style than the distinctive Leaf offers you, and quite a bit less power too - the Kangoo Z.E. uses a 44 kW (60 horsepower) electric motor powered by a 22 kilowatt-hour Lithium-ion battery pack. Torque is a useful 166 pounds feet though, and range is 100 miles with a top speed limited to 80mph.

The figures then are competitive with many current EVs, but the price after incentives is competitive with Renault's own diesel-powered Kangoo in France, something almost unprecedented in EVs up until now. No prices have yet been released for Renault's other upcoming EVs, the Fluence Z.E. compact sedan, the Zoe Z.E. subcompact and the Twizy city car, a tandem two-seater smaller than the 2011 Smart ForTwo.

So even if we never see a Renault E.V. on U.S. shores, hopefully Nissan and other manufacturers will soon be able to price their electric vehicles at a level competitive with gasoline and diesel models. Renault have previously suggested their Fluence Z.E. would cost less than gasoline models - the Kangoo is evidence that they were serious.

With EV prices a major barrier to many consumers, it will be interesting to follow the progress of the Kangoo Express Z.E. compared to its combustion-engined cousins.