Renault has revealed the final look of its Fluence Z.E. electric family car and launched a website for buyers to register their interest.
Click to see a larger photo of the Renault Fluence.
The free, no-obligation registration puts motorists in the queue for the five-seater car which arrives in 2011. Renault says it will have a pricetag comparable with a similarly equipped diesel, so it should cost around £20,000 after the Government's £5000 electric car incentive is taken into account.
That's much more affordable than the £38,699 Mitsubishi i-MiEV, which goes on sale this year, because Renault expects most buyers to lease, rather than own, the expensive lithium-ion batteries in the Fluence.
Renault claims the total ownership cost will, consequently, be similar to that of conventionally powered.
Much of the detail of that claim is still to be subjected to scrutiny, however. It's unclear over what time period Renault is talking about and, crucially, what sort of resale value it's projecting for the Fluence.
While day-to-day running costs are certain to be much lower than a petrol or diesel car – with a full recharge costing less than a £1 compared with a £60 tank refill – whether it is more cost effective over three years will hinge on the question of how much of its original value it retains.
What's the Renault Fluence like?
The Fluence has a 99-mile range and takes around six hours to recharge through a domestic socket. Renault is also planning fast-charge stations that can replenish the batteries in half an hour, as well as quick drop stations where empty batteries can be swapped for fully charged units in three minutes.
Top speed is capped at 84mph. There's no official 0-62mph acceleration time, but we expect the Fluence to do it in around 11 seconds.
We've driven the concept-version of the Fluence as well as the other electric cars that Renault is developing: the two-seater Twizzy and the supermini Zoe.
Will electric cars really take off?
The Renault-Nissan Alliance certainly thinks so. The group is wholly committed to electric cars and believes they will account for 10% of the market by 2020.
The two companies have committed to £3.5 billion of investment in the electric car programme and together have 2000 dedicated staff working on development.
You can also see what company boss Carlos Ghosn thinks about it all in our Big Interview feature.
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