Fluent response to the gas guzzlers
The Renault Fluence Z.E. might not convince electric vehicle doubters with its 115 mile range, but the asking price looks reasonable, the vehicle itself spacious and practical and if you have access to a home charging point and a regular, modest commute it could well fit your lifestyle very smartly.
Yes, there is a conventionally powered Fluence model, but this Z.E. model is stretched slightly to accommodate the 250 kilo lithium-ion battery that sits behind the rear seats. Generating the equivalent of 94bhp, the electric motor also manages a respectable 226Nm of torque deployed via a single-speed gearbox. That means driving is simplicity itself and, with a claimed 0-62mph time of 13.7sec and 84mph maximum, performance falls just the right side of adequate. There's no transmission whine, just a rather eerie silence as you pull away. That's if you're suitably smooth with the throttle. Really go for a gap from standstill and the electric motor has more than enough torque to spin up the front wheels. The battery regeneration is quite strong when you roll off the throttle, the car feeling a little 'gluey' when decelerating but you'll save the brakes in the process. Just be aware that this deceleration with no brake lights showing can give following drivers a rude awakening.
Handling is as good as you'd imagine for a car with such a low centre of gravity and kerb weight has been limited to a sensible 1453kg. Renault claims a range of 115 miles from the batteries but this is based on the rather optimistic NEDC statistics. Bank on seeing three quarters of that and you shouldn't be disappointed. They can be recharged in around six to eight hours from a domestic power supply or, if you have access to a three-phase fast-charge supply, in thirty minutes.
The Fluence is blandly handsome in a generic way, as if Renault took every mid-range saloon car design, fed them into a piece of software and asked for an average to be output. Of course, there will be those who see this as a plus, who are fed up with gimpy-looking electric vehicles and yearn for something a little less smug. In this regard, the Fluence Z.E. is a decidedly mature design and another indicator that the electric vehicle has progressed. The Renault Fluence Z.E. offers an intriguing glimpse to the future and is decently equipped in the Dynamique form we've been trying here. We have already seen a huge step forward in electric vehicle feasibility and advances in battery technology and the ongoing decarbonisation of power generating facilities will only make these vehicles more attractive from an ecological viewpoint. For a small cross section of buyers it will. If you live in a suburban area and commute by car into the city it offers a number of benefits, although you'll need to salve your conscience over whether in this scenario you should really be using public transport. For the majority, the limited range and worry about running out of battery charge are caveats that outweigh the benefits of an electric vehicle. The Fluence Z.E. represents several steps in the right direction but widespread acceptance of vehicles of this ilk remains still some way off.
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