Publication date: 29 October 2011
Renault Fluence ZE

Renault Fluence ZE


Review - The Renault Fluence is a luxury sedan that is about the same size as the Renault Laguna. The car is mainly intended for the Eastern European market, as sedans are in demand there. However, from the end of 2011 the Fluence will also be on sale in the UK. From then on, the Fluence will be available as an electric car. The "Fluence ZE" features a unique invention that can give real added value over other electric cars.

The advantages of electric driving are clear: an electric car has no direct emissions and electricity is cheaper than fuel. In addition, an electric motor is quiet, powerful and extremely reliable.

The biggest disadvantage of electric driving is that electricity is difficult to store. Batteries are expensive and heavy. Technically, it is not a problem to equip a car with so many batteries that it can drive 1,000 km without recharging. But such a car would be prohibitively expensive and the high weight would greatly handling greatly reduce. Too little battery power means low range and frequent recharging between trips.

Renault Fluence ZE

Change trick

In the meantime, there are many solutions available for this problem. For example, there are there are cars with two engines working together ("full hybrid"), cars with auxiliary motors ("range extender") and many systems for faster charging charging.

Renault opts with the Fluence for a battery pack that can be easily changed ("Quickdrop"), just as it can be done with a camera or torch. The Fluence drives to a battery swap point, where a robotic arm removes the empty batteries at the bottom of the car and replaces them with a set of fully charged batteries. The entire procedure takes about three minutes, which is faster than the average stop at a petrol station!

Renault Fluence ZE

Alas, this procedure has some drawbacks. The biggest of these is that the nearest exchange point is in Denmark. Although around Europe much work is being done to install charging points, there are no exchange points for batteries. At the time of writing, discussions are underway with supplier "Better Place", but no concrete agreements or plans yet.

Thereby, the swappable battery takes a huge bite out of the boot space. To compensate, the overhang behind the rear wheels has been increased (+13 cm) and that hasn't done the already corny design any favours. On the other hand the boot is reasonably usable at 317 litres. Moreover, under the load floor there is an additional storage compartment

Finally, buying an electric Fluence is more complicated than buying other cars. Because the battery will be changed regularly, it cannot become the property of the driver. Therefore, the buyer of a Fluence ZE is always required to take out a leasing contract for the batteries.

Practice test

Despite the above problems, the Fluence ZE is already usable. A empty battery (lithium-ion, 22 kWh) does not need to be changed, but can also be charged. This can be done at a charging point on the street or via the wall socket at home. Depending depending on the situation, charging takes between 30 minutes and 8 hours. After that the Fluence travel up to 160 km. At the start of the test drive, however the on-board computer displayed, a range of 109 km; an average value for an electric car of this generation.

How far the Fluence gets in practice depends very much on the situation. Driving style, use of heating and air conditioning and outside temperature can shorten the actual range by up to 50 per cent. The test drive consisted a mix of city traffic and motorways. Although the outside temperature of over 30 degrees had a positive influence, the use of the air conditioning had a negative effect. In the end, the test car managed to cover 140 km on a full charge.

Renault Fluence ZE


Both the chassis and the electronic safety net ("ESP") are tuned for the extra weight of the batteries in the rear. In addition, the Fluence ZE is on tyres specially developed for this car.

Despite this during a sharp, sudden steering correction, it is abundantly clear that the weight of the car is at the extreme end. It is recommended when buying the car to stage an avoidance test to be prepared for the unusual nature of the Fluence. Braking does the test car so well that nothing is noticeable from the "overweight" (the batteries weigh 280 kg including mounting hardware).

As with any electric car, the electric version performs better than the internal combustion engine version. A petrol or diesel engine only delivers its maximum power when the power source revs sufficiently. An electric motor, on the other hand, performs optimally from the very first moment.

Renault Fluence ZE

The Fluence ZE therefore moves with tremendous agility and especially in a big car like this, it gives a graceful feeling. Once at speed, there is always plenty of extra power at hand. On bad roads it is even important to be careful with the accelerator in order to avoid unintentional wheel spin.

Of course, the Fluence ZE does its work quietly. Apart from the fact that the electric motor is inaudible, sounds from the tyres and driving wind are also minimal. Optional the Fluence can make a subtle, futuristic, buzzing sound to alert pedestrians. The driver can easily switch this on, then at speeds above 50 km/h, it automatically switches off again.

Renault Fluence ZE

A big difference from other electric cars is that the Fluence is is above average in size. This is not an endearing "eco-car", but a generously sized business car. There is more than enough head and legroom available in the front. Two adults can also sit comfortably in the back. The ZE has the same standard equipment as the regular Fluence, making it no less than many a traditional business car.

Contrary to other brands, Renault does not want to portray the Fluence as a futuristic or special car. Apart from a single logo, nothing points to the special technology under the bonnet. The interior is similar to that of any other Renault, so any driver will quickly feel familiar feel comfortable with the Fluence. In the end, the most striking element was the sound of the telltale indicator: it seemed louder than ever...

Renault Fluence ZE
Renault Fluence ZE


The name "Fluence" points to its flowing lines, but also to a flow of energy. Although by Western European standards, the technology of the electric Fluence is is anything but old-fashioned. For now, this electric car can cover 160 km after recharging. In the future, however, it should be possible to install a new battery within three minutes. With this, Renault has found a unique solution to the limited range of electric cars.

Changing batteries, however, is not yet possible. Therefore for the time being, the Fluence is an excellent driving electric car with only an average range. The biggest advantages of the Fluence are therefore its generous dimensions, comfort and the fact that the car will actually be on sale from the end of 2011 it will actually go on sale.

  • Good performance
  • Spacious and luxurious interior
  • Large range thanks to Quickdrop
  • Corny design
  • Moderate luggage space
  • Quickdrop not yet available in the Netherlands