Renault Fluence Z.E. (2012)

It may look a bit ordinary, but the electric Fluence hides plenty of innovative tech, such as its swappable battery pack, and the promise of a low-entry price thanks to a battery subscription scheme.


About The Author

CNET Editor

Derek loves nothing more than punching a remote location into a GPS, queuing up some music and heading out on a long drive, so it's a good thing he's in charge of CNET Australia's Car Tech channel.


In brief

The pure electric vehicle market is set to hot up in Australia, with Mitsubishi launching its i MiEV later this year, and the Nissan Leaf and Renault Fluence Z.E. coming ashore in 2012.

Under the hood, there's an electric motor that spins up to 11,000rpm, and is capable of delivering 70kW of power and 226Nm of torque. No performance figures are quoted, but the electric Fluence is limited to a top speed of 135km/h.

The energy source for the electric motor is a Lithium-ion battery pack located behind the rear seats. A full charge from mains power takes between six and eight hours, and should provide enough juice for around 185km of driving.

Unlike other electric cars available, such as the i MiEV and the Tesla Roadster, the Fluence Z.E.'s battery pack is removable. This means that the driver can take the Fluence to a Better Place battery swap station, and have the depleted batteries replaced with a fully charged set in around the same time that it takes a fill a tank of fuel.

Prices have yet to be announced, but Renault plans to lower the cost of electric vehicle ownership by selling the car to customers, who then subscribe to a service that covers battery hire, as well as access to swap stations and charging points.

According to Better Place, once battery swap stations and electric charging points have been rolled out across most of the densely populated parts of Australia, this should remove the range anxiety that continues to dog electric vehicles.

To help drivers plan their trips around available swap stations and public charging points, the Z.E. will come fitted with a Better Place-designed nav system dubbed Oscar. Although complete specifications will be announced closer to availability, Renault has confirmed that Australia-bound models will come with dual-zone climate control, automatic headlights and wipers and Bluetooth hands-free.

Extensive changes have been made to the regular Fluence's exterior. For instance, in order to accommodate the battery pack, the Z.E. is 130mm longer than the conventionally powered Fluence. The car's styling has also been tweaked to improve air-flow and cooling for the electric drivetrain, while low-rolling resistance tyres help improve range, and LED tail-lights add a bit of extra differentiation, as well as cutting down a smidgen on power usage.

Outlook

The Fluence Z.E. will be available for "select customers" in Q2 2012 in Canberra, where Better Place is rolling out its first swap stations and charging points. Sales begin around the country at a limited number of Renault dealers in Q4 of 2012.



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