In wrapping up the 60th anniversary celebration of its iconic old-school 4L car, French automaker Renault has unveiled a redesign of the model as the AIR4 electric takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicle.
In recent years, Renault has revved up its shift from traditional internal combustion engines toward emissions-free, battery-powered versions of its most popular models. That included work on producing an electrified version of its 4L – the boxy, no-frills auto that sold more than 8 million units in over 100 countries between 1961 and 1991. Now, Renault has taken that iconic workaday 4L car famous for getting postal delivery workers, cruising gendarmes, and bustling families around one step further, with its redesign as the AIR4 eVTOL vehicle.
To get the 4L transformation project off the ground, Renault turned to motion design firm TheArsenale. It retained the original forms of the car while rebuilding it entirely from carbon fiber, and factoring in new aerodynamic criteria like thrust and lift to those usually applied to a car chassis. Eschewing a hybrid approach for pure aerial operation, the AIR4 eVTOL has no wheels, and is instead driven by four dual-blade propellers beneath the body.
The car-ish eVTOL version of the 4L is powered by 22,000 mAh lithium polymer batteries packing a total capacity of 90,000 mAh. It can reach a top flight speed of 26m/s, which works out to 58 mph – not all that much slower than the 75 mph at which the original 4L maxed out. Its maximum altitude is 700 meters, and it is capable of what the Renault press release termed a “maximum vectorial thrust of 380 kilograms, that is to say 95kg per propeller.”
After the earlier unveiling of the electric road car version of the 4L, this month’s presentation of the AIR4 completed the radical modernization of Renault’s classic French ride.
“After a year-long celebration we wanted to create something unconventional to close up the 60th anniversary of 4L,” said Arnaud Belloni, Renault brand global marketing director. “This collaboration with TheArsenale was a natural fit. The flying show-car AIR4 is something unseen, and a wink to how this icon could look like in another 60 years.”
There’s no indication yet of when the AIR4 might go into production or sales (much less an eventual price). Despite that, TheArsenale has been pointed in insisting that the transformation of the 4L from a car into an eVTOL isn’t a one-off stunt, but rather Renault’s newest innovation in how it plans to transport people around France and the world in the future.
“For 60 years, the Renault 4 has been driven by ordinary people who make it extraordinary,” says TheArsenale founder and CEO Patrice Meignan. “It is a car that symbolizes adventure. It’s simple, practical, useful, and as modern as it is retro. All drivers will tell you, it allows you to travel differently. That is to say, to live an adventure… With the AIR4 by TheArsenale, the Renault 4 is ready for its greatest adventure yet.”