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Renault unveils final Fluence, Kangoo EVs

Line up, line up: Renault is taking orders for its first electric vehicles, including the Renault Fluence ZE.

Renault-Nissan EV program marches ahead with production Fluence, Kangoo ZE models

Renault logo16 Apr 2010

By TERRY MARTIN

RENAULT has unveiled the production versions of its all-electric Fluence ZE sedan and Kangoo ZE van and has begun taking orders across the globe ahead of the vehicles’ rollout from 2011.

Prospective owners – who will either buy or lease the vehicle, but will hire the battery from Renault – can now “pre-reserve” their EV and benefit from “priority availability” as soon as it becomes available in their home market, which in the case of Australia is not expected until at least 2012.

The wait for private motorists is also expected to be longer in Australia, with Victorian government agencies anticipated to be the first to have access to EVs produced from Renault-Nissan after signing an agreement with the alliance partners in August last year.

The NSW government signed a similar memorandum of understanding last December, although in the 50-plus formal partners specified in the Fluence/Kangoo ZE production announcement last week, Victoria remains the sole Australian partner listed as having an agreement in place with Renault-Nissan.

Global rental firms, including Avis and Hertz, have also signed specific agreements, although access for all concerned will rest on government incentives, global production schedules and the rate of EV infrastructure development from government (federal and state) and from consortiums, such as those initiated through network provider Better Place.

35 center imageLeft: Renault Fluence ZE. Lower: Renault Kangoo ZE.

The emergence of the production Fluence and Kangoo ZEs also comes as Renault and Daimler thrash out the details of their new far-reaching global collaboration announced earlier this month, with EVs and batteries among potential fracture lines running through the partnership.

There is no word on whether Daimler and Renault will share Fluence or Kangoo EV technologies or platform architectures, although overseas reports indicate that the German manufacturer will not have access to another of the four EVs well advanced in their development: the Twizy two-seater.

The other is the Zoe sub-compact car, which uses the same basic EV hardware as the Fluence and Kangoo.

The new-generation (Daimler) Smart Fortwo and Forfour compact cars are both due to be developed in partnership with Renault-Nissan, complete with hybrid and plug-in electric drivetrain options, with a redesigned Renault Twingo also emerging from the collaboration.

Another point of interest is that both Daimler and Renault-Nissan intend to become leading manufacturers of EV batteries, which could create a conflict over the batteries used in their joint-venture vehicles.

Renault reaffirmed its position on EVs last week, forecasting that EVs would account for 10 per cent of the world market by 2020 and that it would becoming a leading player through its €4 billion ($A5.8b) zero-emissions program.

The production versions of the ZE-branded Fluence and Kangoo models are, as expected, similar to their conventional-engine counterparts, with the obvious exception of a battery charge flap (with ZE branding on the van) – located near the front wheelarch on either side of the Fluence and on the front face of the Kangoo.

While the Fluence will be sold specifically as an EV in some markets, including the UK, it will be sold in Australia with a conventional powertrain from late in 2010.

The latest version of the Kangoo, as seen with the ZE version, is also due to arrive in Australia in conventional form around June.

Critically, the ZE version of the van has the same practical functions of the combustion-engined vehicle – that is, the same carrying capacity (up to 3.5 cubic metres), the same payload (650kg) and comparable equipment levels.

Tipping the scales at 1410kg, the Kangoo ZE is powered by a 44kW electric motor which Renault claims offers energy efficiency of 90 per cent (far superior to the 25 per cent associated with internal combustion engines). The motor weighs around 160kg, revs to 10,500rpm and delivers its peak torque of 226Nm instantly.

It draws from a Nissan/NEC-developed 22kWh lithium-ion battery, which weighs about 250kg and is located underneath the cargo floor, and offers a maximum driving range of 160km before requiring a recharge. Top speed is electronically limited to 130km/h.

A conventional charge via a 220-volt household mains supply takes between six and eight hours to complete.

The cabin includes a gauge alongside the speedo which indicates the level of battery charge, while an ‘econo’-meter provides the driver with an indication of energy consumption: light blue depicts normal use, dark blue shows optimal energy use and red informs the driver that he/she is using excessive energy in a way that will have an adverse effect on the vehicle’s operational range.

The trip computer’s functions are also adapted to the needs of EVs, displaying the remaining range and remaining battery energy (kWh) as well as real-time and average energy consumption.

The Kangoo will be built alongside conventional versions of the van at Renault’s Maubeuge plant in France, with production beginning in the first half of 2011.

This is the same timetable for the Fluence ZE, which will be built in Bursa, Turkey, on the same production line as conventional models.

The bigger, heavier (1543kg) Fluence has a more powerful motor offering 70kW at 11,000rpm but the same 226Nm of torque and a comparable 22kWh battery (located in this case behind the rear seats). It also has the same 160kg maximum driving range, plus a 135km/h top speed.

Quoted recharging times are the same as those with the Kangoo ZE, although both vehicles are also compatible with 400-volt rapid-charge stations, which can cut down charging times to 30 minutes.

Both vehicles will also offer a battery swap system where available, such as in networks developed by Better Place. In Australia, this will begin with Canberra in 2012.

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