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AIMS: Renault lands Fluence ZE

Better place: This Renault Fluence ZE was air-freighted direct from Paris this week in preparation for its national premiere at AIMS.

Electric Renault confirmed to make Australian debut with help from Better Place

28 Jun 2011

RENAULT’S ground-breaking Fluence ZE will make its Australian debut at the Melbourne motor show this week, courtesy of EV infrastructure provider Better Place.

The mid-size electric sedan, which was last week confirmed for local fleet trials by mid-2012 before it goes on sale to the Australian public in the final quarter of next year, was air-freighted direct from Paris this week in preparation for its national premiere in Melbourne.

In the absence of a Renault stand at this year’s Australian International Motor Show, the Fluence ZE’s first local appearance will be hosted by Better Place, which will co-promote Renault Australia’s first EV and establish a national network of battery recharge and exchange stations to power what it claims will be the nation’s first affordable mainstream EV.

As we’ve reported, Better Place will commence the rollout of its national EV charging grid in Canberra this year and has predicted Australia will have the world’s largest such system in place by the end of 2013.

The Fluence ZE will be one of at least four plug-in vehicles on show in Melbourne, including Mitsubishi’s pioneering i-MiEV city-EV, which becomes available to Australian individuals for $48,800 plus on-road costs from August, Nissan’s small Leaf hatchback, which arrives here in April next year, and a version of Volvo’s C30 Electric that survived a 64km/h frontal offset crash test.

However, the Fluence ZE comes with the additional feature of a switchable battery pack that makes it compatible with Better Place’s automated battery swap procedure - a process that is claimed to take about the same time as filling a conventional vehicle’s fuel tank.

As part of the Renault-Better Place deal, buyers of the Fluence ZE – who are expected to pay about the same as the regular petrol-powered Fluence, which costs less than $30,000 – will lease the car’s lithium-ion battery pack from Better Place.

Like mobile phone users, Fluence ZE owners will have access to a range of Better Place subscription packages - prices for which are yet to be revealed - that will include unlimited access to batteries, a network of public charge spots and battery switch stations, and personal charging outlets at customers’ homes or workplaces.

Although a network of battery recharge and/or swap stations that would allow EV drivers to travel between Australia’s major capital cities remains years away, Better Place describes the Fluence ZE as Australia’s first “unlimited range” EV, because it eliminates the biggest problem with battery-electric vehicles – limited driving range.

Making the Fluence ZE, which boasts a longer than normal 185km driving range, a genuine zero-emissions vehicle – apart from the CO2 produced during its manufacture – Better Place promises to power its charging network exclusively with energy from renewable sources.

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