Renault-Nissan bets its future on electric and hybrid cars

It's launching a whole range of EVs and hybrids in the next several years.

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The Renault-Nissan alliance is no stranger to producing electric cars. Have heard of this little thing called the Leaf? However, its eco-friendly vehicles have tended to be odd ducks in the lineup. That's about to change: the Renault Group has unveiled a "Drive the Future" plan that will see the company field eight all-electric models and 12 hybrids by 2022. Simultaneously, it's trying to leave emissions scandals in the past by cutting its diesel range in half over the same period.

In a sense, Renault-Nissan doesn't have much of a choice. Paris' mayor Anne Hidalgo, a very vocal opponent of fossil fuel and unnecessary car use, wants to get rid of all diesels in her city's urban core by 2025. France as a whole, hopes to ban sales of fossil fuel cars by 2040. The automaker needs more than one-offs like the Leaf or Renault Zoe if it's going to remain a mainstay on French streets.

Nonetheless, it's a huge shift for a company which has depended heavily on diesel cars under chief Carlos Ghosn -- at one point, they represented 60 percent of sales. While it's not as dramatic a move as what you've seen from companies like Volvo (which promises a complete shift to electric and hybrid cars within 2 years), it's another sign that the automotive industry is no longer treating EVs as side projects. As with VW and other high-volume brands, Renault-Nissan knows electric cars have to play an important role in its lineup within the next few years, not just at some distant point in the future.