Rendering of Renault Electric Vehicle Experience Center, opened in Taby Centrum, Stockholm, Feb 2018
How to sell electric cars in these early years poses a quandry for all automakers.
Tesla chose to avoid existing franchised dealerships and set up its own "stores," where shoppers can learn about plug-in electric vehicles, and their advantages, and have questions answered by Tesla representatives. Buyers then order online.
Other makers have had less success with dropping an electric car or two into dealerships accustomed to gasoline vehicles.
Today, Renault will open its first electric-car-only showroom to display its growing lineup of battery-electric vehicles, separate from dealers and displays with gasoline and diesel cars.
The "Renault Electric Vehicle Experience Center" will open in Stockholm, in one of the Swedish capital's largest shopping centers, known as Taby Centrum.
Renault said it has designed a "physical and digital journey" so visitors can learn about how electric cars work in day-to-day life, and figure out which may be right for them.
2016 Renault Zoe electric car
Different zones within the space display the cars themselves and educate visitors on charging stations and how public charging works.
They also provide information both on local subsidies and financial incentives and the various ways drivers can purchase, lease, or pay for EVs and related services.
Outside, visitors can test-drive Renault's range of battery-electric vehicles, including the Zoe subcompact hatchback, the best-selling electric car in Europe for several years now.
And, of course, at the end of their drives and education, they can configure and order a car as well. Advisors will be on hand seven days a week, Renault said.
Tesla Store Los Angeles [photo: Misha Bruk / MBH Architects]
"Stockholm was on top of our list because of the fast Electric Vehicle market expansion in Sweden," explained Zakaria Zeghari, Renault's dealer development director for Europe, "and the strong willingness of Swedish government to promote this technology."
The goal is both to use digital tools in new ways to educate shoppers and help them make the right vehicle decisions, and to open new distribution channels beyond the usual dealer network.
A different approach to the challenge of educating consumers about electric cars is the Go Forth Vehicle Showcase in Portland, which has partnered with dealers for several different brands of electric cars to display them in a dedicated showroom.
Renault said it is evaluating opening similar stores in other European cities.