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Renault Electric Cars

The Renault Fluence Z.E. With Swappable Batteries But No Hatch

By Laurent J. Masson · February 10, 2011

Renualt Fluence Z.E. (Zero Emission)

Executives from the Renault-Nissan alliance have clearly stated their desire to be the global leader in electric cars. In pursuit of that goal, the Fluence Z.E. (Zero Emission) is the model that will appeal to the most conservative customers. On the other hand, it’s is a very classic compact 4-door sedana segment of the market that attracts few buyers in western Europe.

Let me explain.

The Ford Focus, which is about the same size, used to be available as a hatchback and a sedan, but there were so few buyers for the sedan that Ford stopped selling it in most European markets. Europeans love their hatchbacks, and the Fluence is the sedan version of the Renault Megane, which is a hatch. So why didn’t Renault make an electric version of the Megane? It would please a lot more people in Europe. Or could it be that western Europe isn’t the main market for the Fluence?

It certainly isn’t for the gasoline model, and it won’t be for the electric one either.

It’s a global world. The Fluence Z.E. wears the name of a French brand, but it’s built in Turkey, and its biggest market will be Israel. This is the car that Better Place will use for its battery exchange scheme. The Fluence is the first production electric car that has been specifically designed so that its battery can be swapped in three minutes at Better Place battery exchange stations.

There isn’t a single one of those stations in France right now, nor in Germany. Few people are expecting any to be built, because nobody knows who would pay for their construction.

Making the battery easy to swap involved a lot of extra work. The Renault Megane hatchback is 169 inches long; the gasoline Fluence sedan is 182 inches; and the electric Fluence is 187 inches. Renault had to redesign the entire rear end, and make it bigger so that it could accept a system where a battery can be very quickly swapped. Located just behind the rear axle, the battery is a 22-kWh unit, built with the same cells used in the Nissan LEAF.

Making the 22-kWh battery pack swappable meant reducing the trunk to 10.6 cubic feet of cargo space, from 18.7 in the gasoline Fluence. The extra cargo space would be nice, but with a modest range of 100 miles, maybe it’s not essential.

Renualt Fluence interior

Weight is up from 2,785 pounds in the base 1.6-liter gasoline Fluence, to 3,405 pounds in the electric one, but this shouldn’t be a problem as it has more torque167-lbs/ft to be exact, with 70 kW of power. I asked if it was the same motor as the Nissan LEAF, and the answer was negative. But I’ve seen many times that Renault and Nissan are very good at sharing parts.

RENAULT Fluence Electric Cars

I’m pretty sure this motor is a close cousin to the one in the LEAF. Top speed is limited at 84 mph. When it comes to acceleration, Renault says it has benchmarked this model to the gasoline Fluence, so it should be adequate, if not fun.

The Fluence Z.E. is available to order in France and several other European countries, but deliveries have been delayed. They should have started in July, but it’ll more likely be September. Nobody has been able to explain me why, other than saying that they want to be sure everything’s right.

Renualt Fluence

The price is 26,300 euros (

$35,800) with a decent level of standard equipment, but French people will pay less because the government gives a 5,000-euro incentive for electric cars. The sad thing is that this price does not include the battery, which will require an extra monthly payment of 79-euros ($107).

Renault has the same pricing strategy for its Kangoo. It explains that selling electric cars without their batteries gives them the same prices as diesel ones, and that all included, the total cost of ownership is lower. But many people may prefer the Nissan LEAF that should be available just below 30,000 euros with the government incentive, battery included.

Also, it’s a hatch!

RENAULT Fluence Electric Cars
RENAULT Fluence Electric Cars
RENAULT Fluence Electric Cars
RENAULT Fluence Electric Cars
RENAULT Fluence Electric Cars

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