Facelifted 2013 Renault Fluence electric sedanEnlarge Photo
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replacement touted, the company could find themselves catering for a very limited user base with an increasingly outdated product.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.