Renault Fluence ZE To Be Only Battery-Swap Car; One For The Books?

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Facelifted 2013 Renault Fluence electric sedan

Facelifted 2013 Renault Fluence electric sedan

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To the untrained eye, the Renault Fluence Z.E. is a fairly unremarkable vehicle--a compact sedan not unlike other compact sedans sold all around the world.

What makes it different is its electric drivetrain, but what separates it even more is the fact its battery can be swapped out for a new one in a matter of minutes.

That's the Better Place business model, but such a concept may not be long for this world.

According to Danish energy website Energiwatch, Renault-Nissan CEO has said the company will in future concentrate on improving its battery technology, rather than building cars with batteries that can be swapped at dedicated stations.

"When you look at the overall trend, we must conclude that replaceable batteries are no longer the main path for electric vehicles... We believe that people want flexibility in the technology, and we can see that the demand is for rechargeable standard batteries," Ghosn told Energiwatch.

He added, "There may be cases where people prefer replaceable batteries - as we have tried to include Israel and Denmark. Here we will continue to offer the Fluence with replaceable batteries.

"There may also be large companies, where they have a huge fleet of cars, and do not want to wait for charging. But it will not be the majority of the market, and going forward, our focus is on the charging technology."

The implication is that battery swapping is on its last legs as a concept, in all but the smallest dedicated situations--like that of the GreenWay Project in Slovakia.

The Fluence isn't dead just yet, and Renault will continue to make it for the time being--but Ghosn's words suggest a replacement isn't on the horizon.

Renault's other electric models--the Kangoo Z.E. van, the Zoe subcompact and the Twizy city car, all use standard battery technology with no rapid replacement model. Since debuting in 2012, both Twizy and Kangoo have out-sold the Fluence at more than 9,000 units each.

In comparison, the Fluence Z.E. has sold fewer than 3,000 units worldwide since 2010.

It's not looking good for the Better Place business model, that's for sure--with no Fluence replacement touted, the company could find themselves catering for a very limited user base with an increasingly outdated product.

The Renault Fluence is unlikely to go down as a classic vehicle in the annals of history--but it may find itself the sole example of production battery swapping technology.


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Comments (7)
  1. With only 3000 Fluence's sold, I wonder how long Better Place will be in existence. Also, what happens to all the Fluence owners once Better Place folds? After all, their batteries don't belong to them. Do they get left with a car but no battery?

  2. I think the batteries technically belong to Renault, Better Place just has the system in place to swap them. If BP folds, I assume Renault will still be able to provide aftersales service.

  3. What? Really.

    Better Place maintains swap stations with lots of batteries, then rents the batteries to the car owners. Better place collects the fees, etc.

    are you telling me that the batteries don't belong to Better Place Corp?

  4. Never liked the idea of battery rental, this is the reason. Imagine being left with an electric car that you own and no battery for it! The problem is no-one can predict which direct a company will go in the future. If you want to keep the car, then you should buy it, all of it! Surely that is the lesson of the EV1.

  5. One big problem with the Fluence is the battery swap is setup for the way Better Pace's stations work so it makes it harder for other companies to get in on battery swapping. So swapping has so far only looked like the idea of just one company, it hasn't shown signs of becoming a battery swapping industry. And there has been no support from the auto industry aside from just one model from Renault, so with little support and no one really jumping in to make swapping an industry the idea is not taking hold.

  6. Battery swapping has always been a DOA concept, except for fleet vehicles and taxis.

    1. Who in their right mind would swap the $10-15K battery in their shiny new EV for one of unknown capacity, just to get another 75 miles of range?

    2. The battery should provide structural rigidity to an EV, instead of hanging from the frame as dead weight.

    3. EV owners will need thousands of charging locations in every possible geographic area and each battery swap center costs milions of dollars.

    Quick charging is the only way to go. I am just wondering when Renault's fast AC charger will catch on to replace the current hodge podge of DC standards.

  7. I still beleive in batteries swpping. But:
    1- The swapping technology must be simplified
    2- The battry pack soulld be at the front.
    3- A kind of self service should be introduced
    4- A battery pack is not a cellular phone so paying without taking into account the millage is a nonsense
    5- Swapping stations should be between cities, not inside cities. Every one has électricity at home but who has his own gazoline station at home?

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