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City dwellers will love the Fluence for its sheer ease of operation

Our Verdict

Renault Fluence

The Renault Fluenze ZE is a C-segment saloon and is a solid way to kick off Renault's electric vehicle product offensive

  • First Drive

    Renault Fluence ZE

    First electric Renault isn’t likely to make much of a mark in the UK
  • First Drive

    Renault Fluence ZE

    A comfortable, practical and impressive EV and a solid way to kick off Renault’s commitment to an all-electric range
Steve Cropley Autocar
27 October 2009

What is it?

You’re looking at Renault’s first stab at an electric family saloon, a version of a Megane-based four-door the company is launching in many of its developing markets.

One point of view is that electric vehicles must become more focused - must aim, for instance, at either inner-city work or cruising, but not the pair - but this car confounds that theory by being Renault’s first model to use a body already in production.

That also makes it an ideal first application for Renault’s pioneering ‘Quickdrop’ battery exchange system, the infrastructure for which the company wants to establish widely. The first major applications will be in Denmark and Israel, where governments have indicated a willingness to assist. Renault wants to sell 100,000 Quickdrop electric cars in both markets by 2016.

What's it like?

The concept is an entertainingly decorated version of the more conventional-looking production car that’s coming, with four doors and a boot like an ordinary saloon.

The Quickdrop battery, accessible from underneath via a ramp, fits between the rear bulkhead and boot, and it gives the car a range of about 100 miles. The powertrain is the same 94bhp, direct front-drive set-up used for the Zoe, and gives the car a top speed estimated at around 75mph, with reasonably good off-the-mark acceleration – though the kerb weight, estimated at 1700kg, is pretty obvious.

If anything, driving this car is a bit too easy, what with its lack of gears, its regenerative braking (which means you hardly need to touch the brakes) and its ultra-light power steering. But city dwellers will love the Fluence for its sheer ease of operation.

Should I buy one?

Depends on where you live. In Israel and Denmark, where tax regimes and quickly developing infrastructure make it practical, a Fluence could very soon become one of the cheapest-to-operate, lowest-maintenance pieces of transport going, at least by 2012.

Elsewhere it won’t be so easy. In the UK, for instance, it’ll be a long time before any electric car makes more sense than a Megane diesel.

 

Join the debate

Comments
2

2 November 2009

If Renault (and presumably Nissan) gets a foothold in the battery replacement market with Quickdrop, then their battery system may become the standard to which other manufacturers must comply. Should be an interesting battle.

2 November 2009

Look forward to seeing the production version of the Megane saloon.

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