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by Tim Beissmann

The 2012 Renault Fluence Z.E. will become the first electric vehicle in Australia that allows you to swap the battery in the time of a fuel stop and drive on with a fully charged car.

Renault Australia will launch the Fluence Z.E. (zero emission) compact sedan in Canberra in the second quarter of next year. It will become available across the rest of the country around six months later in the fourth quarter of 2012.

The Fluence Z.E. will have a driving range of 185km. A full recharge will take between six and eight hours (about 25km per hour). Alternatively, a complete battery exchange will take less than four minutes.

Renault Australia has signed a landmark agreement with Better Place, a pioneering electric car charging network provider in Australia, to support the Fluence Z.E.

Owners of the new electric Renaults will sign up for a Better Place membership package tailored to their driving needs. The subscription will provide unlimited access to batteries, the network of public charge spot and battery switch stations, and personal charge spots at home or work. Better Place says it is committed to supplying 100 percent renewable electricity.

A Better Place membership will also cover the cost of the car’s battery, which will be key to making the Fluence Z.E. affordable. Renault Australia is yet to reveal pricing information, although it is understood the Z.E. version will be priced close to the standard petrol version, which could mean a price of around $30,000.

The Renault Fluence Z.E. is driven by an electric motor with 70kW (at 11,000rpm) and 226Nm of torque. It is powered by a lithium-ion battery that is mounted behind the rear seats. Accelerating from 0-100km/h takes around nine seconds while the top speed is limited to 135km/h.

It will incorporate an ‘OSCAR’ navigation system designed by Better Place. The system will provide traditional route guidance information and will pinpoint charge spots and battery switch stations.

The car will grow 130mm in length to accommodate the battery, with some small changes to the exterior design.

The tachometer will be replaced by a colour-coded  ‘econo-meter’ with information about the remaining charge and range. The centre console display will identify the selected transmission mode: ‘forward’, ‘reverse’, ‘neutral’ or ‘parking’.

Other standard features will include Bluetooth phone connectivity, dual-zone climate control, automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers.

Pricing and local specifications will be revealed closer to the vehicle’s Australian launch in the second quarter of next year.




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