The Renault Fluence ZE is part of the first wave of electric vehicles to arrive from the French manufacturer. Along with the Kangoo ZE small commercial vehicle, this electrically powered mid-size saloon stands at the vanguard of Renault’s bold foray into battery-powered transport.
At 4748mm in length, the Fluence ZE is 130mm longer than the standard, non-electric Fluence saloon available elsewhere in Europe, which allows the 280kg of lithium-ion batteries to be located behind the rear seats. The front grille design has also been altered and the rear bumper features a diffuser. This car rides on low-resistance Goodyear tyres and aero-efficient wheels.
Cosmetic tweaks include a new rear light cluster, a blue tint to the lights, fog light surrounds and badging, plus chrome highlighting on the boot lid.
The Fluence ZE’s cabin is spacious with plenty of legroom front and rear. Despite the vertical stacking of the battery pack behind the rear seats, the size of the boot remains the same as the conventional Fluence’s at 317 litres, although the shape is made awkward by the battery.
The dash display comprises a gauge that shows the battery’s power, a conventional speedometer and an econometer that shows the current level of charge or discharge. Stamp the accelerator and the econometer’s needle leaps into the red; lift off during a downhill descent and it falls into the blue as the kinetic energy recovery system replenishes the battery.
To start the car you turn the key, which illuminates a green ‘go’ button on the dashboard display, then engage drive from the single-speed ’box. The Fluence ZE moves away almost silently, with only a faint turbine-like whine.
The power delivery is seamless and gets you from a standstill to 30mph in 4.1s. The linear acceleration feels like it could go on forever but it can’t, because the car is limited to 84mph to conserve energy.
The first challenge when driving the Fluence ZE is remembering that 166lb ft of torque is immediately at your disposal. Due to the lack of noise and urgency, it’s easy to forget that the car is capable of pulling away from junctions in a hurry.
The recovery of kinetic energy during deceleration slows the car quite dramatically and takes some getting used to. After a while, you start incorporating the system’s characteristics into your driving style. In that respect, the Fluence ZE encourages a relaxed mode of driving, a feeling emphasised by super-light electric power steering.