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Carlos Ghosn, chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, says a new Silicon Valley research office to be opened this month will give the Alliance an edge in the development of cleaner vehicles.

"The Alliance is at the vanguard of the auto industry's shift to sustainable transportation. Having a greater footprint in one of the world's headquarters for clean tech research will extend our lead further," said Ghosn (above) on the eve of a talk at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) on the unprecedented opportunities in the auto industry resulting from zero-emission technologies.

Directly across from the Google campus and minutes from leading hardware and software companies, the new Renault-Nissan offices in Mountain View will allow one of the world's largest automotive groups to capitalize on the region's world-class engineering talent and stay ahead of trends that are reshaping the way people interact with their cars.

Nissan will use the Silicon Valley office to focus on vehicle IT research, including graphical user-interface displays, in-car Internet connectivity and smart-grid research. Nissan's "Carwings" telematics system, a standard in the Leaf EV, includes a seven-inch touchscreen with maps of recharging stations and real-time reports on energy consumption.

Renault's Silicon Valley work will focus on research and advanced engineering, in particular electric vehicles and their supplier and infrastructure ecosystem, on-board services and business development.

Renault-Nissan's $5.4billion Zero-Emission future

The Alliance has invested $5.4billion in the development of electric vehicles. Products due for launch in the next few years include:

  • Infiniti premium electric sedan
  • Renault Twizy urban commuter car for Europe, and utility vans for commercial fleets
  • Renault Fluence ZE, due for launch late in 2011, which has a folding floor to allow fast battery swaps – Renault claims a swap takes less time than filling the tank of a conventional car
  • Renault Twizy ZE, a two-seat urban commuter car
  • Renault Kangoo ZE, a utility van