“I want to electrify Alpine to preserve its name for all eternity,” said Luca de Meo when he arrived in the Renault wheelhouse. Obviously there’s a lot to unpack there - not least the absolute certainty that the Alpine name will not survive for eternity - but the comment was apparently sufficient for the newly emboldened division to break out the rubber-handled spanners, and set to the A110 with the intention of replacing its 1.8-litre engine with an all-electric powertrain. The result is the A110 E-ternité - a ‘rolling laboratory’ which is said to point the way to an ambitious future.
We’ll get to the motor in a moment, but it’s worth pausing here to consider the concept’s other noteworthy feature: a ‘long-awaited’ open roof. Alpine says it wanted to give itself another challenge (although presumably the engineers were also keen to remove as much panel weight as possible) but the outcome, a removable section formed by two roof shells injected with recycled carbon, does make the A110 even cooler. Literally. Alpine says it has also been playing around with flax as an alternative skin in the some of the bodywork - which absolutely is about reducing mass.
This was a preoccupation because elsewhere the firm had to find room for 392kg of battery pack. The twelve modules were liberated from a Megane E-Tech, but required bespoke battery casings for squeeze them into the A110’s architecture. To achieve the optimum weight distribution, Alpine went with four at the front and eight at the back. Apparently these are positioned in ‘atypical’ fashion, which suggests the engineers have had to squeeze them to just about every available nook and cranny.
The result though, when mated to a 242hp rear-mounted electric motor, is 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds and a top speed of 155mph alongside a 261-mile range. That doesn’t seem too shabby at all from where we’re sitting - especially as Alpine concedes that, even with the additional savings achieved elsewhere, it has increased the car’s kerbweight by as much as 258kg. It even went to the trouble of adapting the A110’s dual-clutch transmission to work in conjunction with the new e-motor, using ‘clutches dimensioned to pass high torques’. Although it now only boasts two ratios where once there was seven.
Elsewhere the manufacturer makes a point of highlighting the complexities of making the different electrical systems work together (i.e. the one you get as standard on the A110, and the one needed to deal with all the new gubbins). Apparently a single ECU was installed to ensure smooth transition between the two. It doesn’t go into commensurate detail about the chassis, but this too appears to have been overhauled - or ‘reinforced’ is probably the better description. Certainly the dampers are now courtesy of Ohlins, and the lower arm of the rear wishbone has been strengthened.
That suggests that Alpine are indeed using the E-ternité ‘to work on electrics in an exploratory way’, and the project doesn’t seem short of in-house innovation. Certainly it’s a fine effort for a first go in terms of conceiving what an electric A110 - and, indeed, the first electric Alpine, period - might look. Of course, it’s unlikely to bear much resemblance to the next-generation model currently being developed in loose partnership with Lotus. That will be a bespoke electric sports car, built on a more appropriate platform. But the firm has talked earnestly about maintaining its DNA come what may; the E-ternité suggests it is putting the time and effort into ensuring that comes true.
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