Renault’s grand plan to dominate the European market for electric cars is gradually coming closer to fruition.
This week, the firm is offering journalists, dealers and and fleet buyers test drives in near-production examples of the Kangoo Z.E. van and Fluence Z.E. saloon out of a base near London’s Russell Square.
Yesterday I went along and got the latest on its thinking on battery leases. I also got to run around the block in an almost-finished Fluence. It was a pretty convincing test drive.
Up until now, Renault’s only let hacks drive the concept versions of its EVs, so it was impressive to discover just how normal and thoroughly executed the road cars will be. The Fluence I drove rode smoothly and quietly, and seemed every bit the comfortable, sizeable, usable, dependable family cars you’d hope for.
Range was the only compromise. The Fluence’s 100-mile range will be a problem for a lot of private and fleet buyers, but only because of the kind of car it is.
Drivers of big comfy saloons tend to spend a lot of their time on the motorway, and won’t fancy stopping every hour of their journey for a 45-minute quick charge. The Zoe supermini, also due in 2012, will sell to a much more suitable audience, however. Renault’s research suggests that almost 90 per cent of supermini owners have never driven further than 80 miles in a day. Ever.