"The Fluence Z.E. is the first all-electric saloon and because of the leased batteries it's one of the cheapest electric cars on sale too."
The Renault Fluence Z.E. is a fully electric, practical four-door saloon designed to make electric car ownership more attractive to new-car buyers. Owners pay a monthly lease in order to rent the expensive battery from Renault, this reduces the purchase price and the risk of high maintenance or repair costs. Eligible for the £5,000 electric vehicle Government grant, the Fluence Z.E.'s price drops to around £18,000- similar to an equally equipped diesel-powered four-door saloon such as the Volkswagen Passat. The 95bhp electric motor provides sensible performance and high levels of torque making the Fluence feel faster than its 0-62mph time of 13.4 seconds suggests. Range is limited to 100 miles however which limts its use over long distances but as it features only one gear, Renault's Fluence Z.E. is very relaxing to drive and represents an attractive package.
With its almost silent electric motor and single-speed gearbox the Fluence is a breeze to drive. It's also incredibly relaxing with no vibration or harsh engine noises. Around town it feels fast and there's a fair amount of power for overtaking too – despite the slow sounding 0-62mph time of 13 seconds. The handling is stable and predictable but there's not much fun to be had in the Fluence Z.E.
Thanks to the silent running and single-speed gearbox the Fluence Z.E. has a few of the benefits of a luxury executive car for a fraction of the price. Admittedly, the ride isn’t quite as good and the suspension does tend to send a thud into the cabin when you drive over potholes or large road imperfections.
The electric technology in the Fluence Z.E. may be relatively new but the good news is there are few moving parts than a combustion engine so less can go wrong. Buyers must lease the Fluence's batteries on a monthly basis and that lease price includes breakdown recovery – including running out of charge – and a promise to provide a battery with at least 75% of the charge capacity of a brand new battery.
There's room to seat three adults across the back bench while boot space is 317 litres. Normally electric conversions lose boot space because of the bulky batteries but the lengthened body has ensured this figure is identical to the standard Fluence. It is a slightly awkward shape though, as it's quite deep but not particularly long. If you’re planning to travel over 100 miles it may be best to look elsewhere as the Fluence Z.E. claims a range of 115 miles but this can be as low as 50 miles.
Value for money
The Renault Fluence Z.E. looks like better value for money than other electric cars because the batteries aren’t included in the price. Instead these are leased to customers on a monthly basis from £81.00. The Fluence also qualifies for a £5,000 government grant which takes the price down to £17,850 at the time of writing. That's for the Prime Time model that comes with cruise control, sat-nav, air-con and automatic lights and wipers as standard.
Anyone considering a Fluence Z.E. should get their calculator out and try and figure out if their fuel costs are more than the cost of the monthly lease. It's worth bearing in mind that there's no road tax to pay, insurance costs are comparably low and so are servicing costs. There's also the bonus of congestion charge exemption which will save drivers in central London £10 a day.