Here’s how LEGO inspired Renault’s E-tech powertrains

As kids, we all loved playing with LEGOs. Putting and fitting the small pieces together captured our attention for hours. Would you ever imagine that car technology is inspired by LEGO pieces as well? Well, that’s how Renault’s E-Tech powertrain was born: from little bricks assembled by Nicolas Fremau, their hybrid architecture expert, reports.

Now available on the Clio, Captur, and Megane models, the E-Tech powertrain’s story began over a decade ago. When Renault introduced its first EVs in 2009, it was also planning to develop a hybrid technology that would make the faster transition to electrified vehicles possible.

To achieve that goal, engineers and experts proposed solutions that had to meet the standards required: light, suitable for vehicles of all sizes, and with a minimum fully electric range of 31 miles (50 km).

Nicolas Fremau, Renault’s hybrid architecture expert, is the one who envisioned the E-Tech powertrain, starting from a LEGO model. The inspiration for the prototype came from his son who used to play with LEGO gearwheels.

“When I saw my son playing with LEGO Technic sprockets at home, I said to myself ‘well, it’s not so far from what I’d like to do.’ So, I bought what I needed piece by piece to have all the assembly elements”, explained Nicolas.

After presenting the model to his team, the reactions were positive.

“If we can do it with LEGO, it means that it’ll work,” said Gérard Detourbet, the project manager at Renault at the time.

It was a challenge for the research team to bring the hybrid powertrain from a LEGO-type design to a fully functional system in just 18 months. They had to put together “axes and transmission rings, glue them and drill them to fit into a cradle, as well as motorize the whole system.”

The whole concept was a power move from Renault, and they’ve proved that it can be done. Sometimes, the solution can come from the simplest things. In this case, the LEGO pieces were the main actors for what turned out to be a functional new design.

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