How to buy one
* Renault electric car reviewed * First of four electric cars * Innovative leasing plan for car's batteries...
The Fluence we drove was a very early example so it's unfair to judge the ride quality (for the record, a bit lumpy), but the quality of the cabin already shows the strides Renault is making in giving its cars an upmarket feel.
Space is okay not especially generous, but enough to be comfortable. Similarly, the boot isn't massive, but okay.
What's going to persuade most of us to buy electric cars, though, will be the price. Renault is taking a different and interesting approach here. Rather than buy the car and the battery outright (as you'll have to do with the first breed of EVs), Renault will sell you the car and lease you the battery. The idea is that it costs no more to buy or run than an average diesel family car.
So, at today's prices, we'd expect to pay around 18,000 to buy the car (including 5000 from the Government's ultra-low-carbon-vehicle incentive), plus around 70 per month to lease the battery and, of course, the cost of electricity to charge the car.
Renault reckons the batteries are good for around eight years which immediately puts into question the second-hand values of EVs where you own the car and the battery. It also makes selling your Fluence (or buying a used one) a two-stage affair there's a price for the car and the battery leasing deal to be taken into account.
The battery is good for around 100 miles, though easily enough for most people's daily commute. It'll recharge in eight hours overnight or can be topped up at the increasing number of charging points that will pop up in the next few years. Constant topping up won't damage the battery's life, either.
The Fluence isn't going to break new ground in the EV market we already know the Nissan Leaf is both more exciting to look at and to drive. However, Renault's way of selling you the car and leasing you the battery may well be the more financially attractive way of getting an EV on your driveway. Which all makes us even more excited about the Twizy and Zoe, genuinely ground-breaking EVs that will follow on a few months later.
What Car? Says
Not the most exciting EV, but the most appealing way to own one