Test driven in August
Text by Cheryl Tay
Photos by Adrian Wong
The whole perspective of driving an electric vehicle is totally different – it is not so much the power output, the range it can cover or the technical specifications of the car. Rather, I feel that driving an electric vehicle is more of changing mindsets and educating the public about how constraints can be overcome for the sake of future technology and helping the environment. Offering a new kind of driving experience, electric vehicles are ideal for urban environments, especially so for a cityscape like Singapore’s.
Due to energy issues worldwide, automakers are pushing research and development in sustainable solutions to deeper levels. For example, the automotive industry contributes about 12 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions from human activity and 25 per cent of the world’s oil consumption. Statistics show that the automotive industry in Singapore is responsible for 35 per cent of the land transport emissions in Singapore. All those numbers are rather alarming!
Renault made a promise in 2009 when they revealed four electric concept cars. Indeed, they were true to their word. In Singapore and Asia, Renault was the first to launch a fully electric sedan and van – the Renault Fluence Z.E., a full-sized four-door electric sedan and the Renault Kangoo Z.E. light commercial electric van.
Test driving the Fluence Z.E. for a weekend, I felt that it was really not much different from a regular test drive of an internal combustion engine car. The only inevitable difference is the range on one charge, but like how we charge our mobile phones or other portable electronic devices every day, the same can be done for the Fluence Z.E. every night too. A complete battery charge takes between six and eight hours, thus can be done overnight.
If you’re wondering about the range of the Fluence Z.E., it can go up to 185km in ideal conditions, which means about 4 cents per km travelled. However, under real world conditions due to temperatures, the varying driving styles and also the gadgets we have in our cars, the average range on one battery charge is about 100 to 120km. The good thing is, the car does not come to a stop suddenly if you hit a battery low. It will continue driving at a reduced speed for a certain distance so that you can get off the expressway or move to a safe spot to stop.
Similar to your typical fuel gauge, the energy gauge shows the battery’s level of charge just like your electronic devices.
You can also access essential vehicle information such as instantaneous and average fuel consumption and remaining range so that you will know when you need to charge the battery.
The Fluence Z.E. is just like your regular car, offering the same comfort, space and types of technologies such as a navigation system, Bluetooth-enabled connectivity, dual-zone automatic climate control, automatic headlights and wipers. It was also made slightly longer than its internal combustion engine equivalent to accommodate the batteries that are located behind the rear seats and not compromise too much on boot space, providing 317 litres of it.
The cabin could comfortably fit three full-sized adults in the back, with enough head and leg room.
Driving an electric vehicle is a very quiet and straightforward affair, as well as being very smooth. There are no gear changes and maximum torque of 226Nm is delivered immediately on the go, making overtaking such a breeze. The synchronous electric motor with rotor coil is capable of a maximum output of 70kW at 3,000rpm, which is translated to about 95bhp. When you lift off the accelerator pedal, energy is being recovered upon deceleration by the motor and converted into electrical energy which then charges the battery.
There is a concern about building an infrastructure to accommodate electric vehicles, such as having charging points in shopping malls and in multi-storey HDB car parks. However, I think the greater concern is in getting people to understand and accept that electric cars make a useful and beneficial solution for the future.
Renault Fluence Z.E. – Technical Specifications
Battery: 22kWh lithium-ion
Performance: Synchronous AC motor
Max Power: 70kW (95bhp) at 3,000rpm
Max Torque: 226Nm
0-100km/h: 13 secs
Top Speed: 135km/h
Price under TIDES-PLUS Scheme: S$90,000
Distributor: Wearnes Automotive