City dwellers will love the Fluence for its ease of operation
Off-the-mark acceleration is reasonably good
Kerb weight of 1700kg is always obvious
Top speed is estimated at 75mph
94bhp direct front-drive set-up
Battery gives the Fluence a range of about 100 miles
Cropley is shown around the Fluence ahead of his test drive
Driving is easy thanks to there being no gears and light steering
Megane saloon underpinnings ensure the Fluence is a practical proposition
Fluence is based on the Megane saloon
Sales of the production car will start in Israel and Denmark
The power steering is ultra-light
Wheels are designed to improve aerodynamics
Hi-tech design complements the in-car systems
Expect some of the design flourishes to be left at the concept stage
Wing mirrors give away the fact this car is far from conventional
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.