Fluence Z.E. Dynamique
of electric vehicles havent,
to date, shown much of a spark.
So can Renaults
influence more buyers to drive
DESPITE THE £5,000 GOVERNMENT subsidy paid to each buyer of an electric-powered
car, just 1,082 electric cars were sold here last year. And since 2006, the
total number of electric cars bought in the UK only comes to 2,149
that's roughly one for each of the currently-available 2,500 charging
points. So, at the present moment, the UK has more power points than cars to
plug into them.
But more electric cars and more choices to tempt buyers are appearing:
Nissan's Leaf, introduced last year (it costs £25,990 after the £5,000 grant)
generated 640 sales and it outsells the Citroen, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, and other
electric-powered models. Coming shortly is a plug-in Ford Focus and the list
of petrol/diesel hybrid models continues to grow.
Which brings us to Renault. Following the recent introduction of their Kangoo
Z.E. (zero emission) electric-powered delivery van, you can now buy a battery-driven
four-door saloon the Fluence Z.E.
Fluence Expression+ will cost buyers £17,495 that's after deducting the
Government's £5,000 electric vehicle grant. The higher specced but technically
identical Dynamique model costs £18,395.
why such a big difference in the prices of the Fluence and the Leaf? While they
use more or less the same powertrain, customers pay more for a Leaf because
they're also buying the battery. Fluence owners buy the car but rent the battery
on contract rental terms for periods of 12-60 months with 6,000-18,000 annual
Why such a big
difference in the prices
of the Fluence and
While they use more
or less the same
pay more for a Leaf
also buying the
owners buy the
car but rent the battery
These direct debit battery rental costs range from £76 to £153 a month. The
most common rental period is for 36 months with an annual mileage of 9,000 miles
and it costs £89 per month. A 6,000 annual mileage monthly cost is £76.
The battery has an estimated life of 8-10 years but under the rental agreement
will be changed free-of-charge if or when it becomes less than 80% efficient.
With a fully-charged battery the Fluence has a range up to 115 miles and is
likely to be used as a commuting car or as a second car.
However, the major disincentive to owning an electric-powered car has, and remains,
the short driving range, followed by the high purchase price (over a conventional
petrol, diesel or hybrid of the same size), shortage of charging points, and
the high cost (currently around £900) of installing high-capacity charging facilities
While the all-electric Fluence's £17,495 starting price partially addresses
the purchase price issue, it does not include the price of the battery which,
as mentioned earlier, has to be rented from Renault at a typical monthly
cost of around £89 for a three-year, 9,000 annual miles period.
With 115 miles being the official figure, the driving range is still clearly
an issue for many potential buyers. The range can, of course, vary with use
from 60 miles on a fast motorway trip to 125 miles for low-speed in-town
commuting without the use of too many battery-sapping functions such as air
A full battery recharge takes between six and eight hours. And for this Renault
recommended using the Wall-Box system from British Gas (its preferred partner
for providing recharging systems and infrastructure). This is part of the Fluence's
cost efficiency, using lower tariff electricity by scheduling recharging during
off-peak hours. Depending on the electricity supplier's rate, a full charge
will cost approximately £2.50.
using an optional EVSE 10amp battery connecting cable, Fluence Z.E. can also
be recharged from conventional 240V, 13amp power supplies at workplaces, at
roadside charge points or at home (conventional DIY extensions cables can't
be used). Three hours charging will be sufficient for around 25 miles but a
full charge from a 13amp domestic ring-mail plug can take around 11 hours.
on an extended Megane platform (increased by 1,300mm to 4,750mm), the built-in-Turkey
four-door, 4/5 person Fluence is of a similar size to a Ford Mondeo and looks
pretty conventional with sculptured side panels, although the boot extension
does not look fully integrated into the overall design.
Inside its typical
of what youd expect
from the Megane,
with lots of kit and
But the Fluences
does restrict boot
space to a fairly modest
Inside it's style and equipment is typical of what you'd expect from the Megane,
with lots of kit and comfortable seats. The Fluence's battery pack takes up
a large proportion of the space behind the rear seats although not at the expense
of rear legroom. However, it does eat into boot space there's only a
fairly modest 317 litres but given that it will only be used for short distance
commuting that shouldn't be an issue.
The Expression+ includes AirCon, auto halogen headlights, auto wipers, battery
Econmeter, live SatNav, cruise control, radio/CD player, speed limiter, low
friction tyres and two charging sockets.
The Dynamique version gains 16-inch alloys, leather-wrapped steering wheel and
gear knob, rear parking sensors and Bluetooth connectivity.
At the heart of the Fluence Z.E. is a 70kW 93bhp electric motor that also serves
up a prodigious 166lb ft of torque from just 400rpm (yes, 400), making the car
well suited to the cut-and-thrust of urban traffic. It's also a comfortable
Drive is to the Fluence's front wheels via a seamless CVT auto transmission
with the normal Park, Reverse and Drive positions. The great thing about an
electric motor is that all the power and torque is available immediately so
it's quick off the mark. But the faster you drive the more battery power is
consumed and, with a limited range at best, drivers will generally take things
very easily with frequent glances at the remaining driving range.
Anxiety, it's called I found I was constantly checking the range readout
and even adjusted the route of my 20-mile test drive accordingly (a short stretch
of busy A-road sticky with commuter cars, a section of motorway and some country
lanes). Not only that, but I was reluctant to use the heater, the air conditioning
or even turn on the radio.
I started my test drive the battery indicator showed nine-tenths charged but
after driving twenty miles the needle was down to sixth-tenths of charge remaining,
which rather suggests less than 100 miles would be possible.
the really unsettling thing was the 'range-left' readout, which at the start
had been 64 miles, dropped after 20 miles to just 33 miles at that point
I headed back to base at a gentle pace.
Range Anxiety, its
called I found I was
the range readout.
Not only that but I was reluctant to
use the heater, the
AirCon or even turn on
The real-life range of these vehicles is the core issue here; made worse by
the fact that, as confirmed by my colleagues' experiences with other electric
vehicles, winter weather can also reduce the actual driving range. Batteries,
as we know from our mobiles and computers, do not operate to their full efficiency
in cold weather.
Turn the key, engage drive and off you go but watch out for pedestrians,
because the Fluence moves quickly and quietly and they won't hear you coming!
A comfortable ride but I wouldn't be comfortable owning one as a commuter driver,
given the likelihood of traffic hold-ups, diversions, and the need to use the
heater or AirCon in adverse weather (hot or cold) and all the time seeing that
range meter getting closer to zero miles left.
Reasons you might be influenced by a Fluence include the European styling and
typical Renault interior, good ride comfort, easy to drive and the essential
operating range indicators. It's also cheaper than Nissan's Leaf, plus there's
no road tax, company car tax or London Congestion Charge.
Reasons not to join the electric revolution (at least not yet): more costly
to buy and then rent the battery than owning a conventional petrol or diesel
engined car of the same size, unpredictable driving range, only really a commuter
car for short journeys.
For some owners the Fluence will work, for others the new clean technology used
for the latest petrol and diesel engines, or hybrids, or the new range-extender
petrol generator-electric models such as the Vauxhall Ampera and Chevrolet Volt
will be more practical. And a lot more more reassuring. David Miles
Fluence Z.E. Dynamique | £18,395
Maximum speed: 84mph | 0-62mph: 13.7 seconds | Range: 66.6 miles
Power: 93bhp | Torque: 166lb ft | CO2 0g/km