Renault Samsung SM3 ZE electric sedan: battery upgrade gives 130-mile range in Korean tests

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Renault Samsung SM3 ZE electric car, sold in South Korea

Renault Samsung SM3 ZE electric car, sold in South Korea

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Frequently, cars withdrawn from one market live on in another, sometimes for years.

Those vehicles may even be upgraded with newer technology in the older body.

Consider that the first-generation Volkswagen Golf launched in 1974, for example, lived on in South Africa until 2009 as the VW CitiGolf.

DON'T MISS: 2009 VW CitiGolf: Driving a Brand-New Retro Rabbit (Jul 2010)

The few thousand French and Israeli drivers of the former Renault Fluence ZE electric sedan may experience a twinge of nostalgia when they see photos of the Renault Samsung SM3 ZE.

The Fluence ZE was withdrawn from sale in France in February 2014, and was available in Israel only through the ambitious but ultimately failed Better Place service.

The same car, however, has been built at a plant in Busan, South Korea, since October 2013 for domestic sale by Renault Nissan Alliance partner Samsung.

Renault Samsung SM3 ZE electric car, sold in South Korea

Renault Samsung SM3 ZE electric car, sold in South Korea

Enlarge Photo
Renault Samsung SM3 ZE electric car, sold in South Korea

Renault Samsung SM3 ZE electric car, sold in South Korea

Enlarge Photo
Renault Samsung SM3 ZE electric car, sold in South Korea

Renault Samsung SM3 ZE electric car, sold in South Korea

Enlarge Photo

Not only is it the country's "most popular electric sedan"—a very specific honor, since most electric cars in Korea are hatchbacks or utility vehicles—but it's actually getting a battery upgrade.

Following the substantial update this year to the European Renault Zoe, whose pack capacity grew from 22 kilowatt-hours to 41 kwh, the SM3 ZE gets roughly the same upgrade for 2018.

READ THIS: 'Totaled' is the long, sad story of Better Place and its failure: book review

For 2018, the battery capacity grows from 22 kwh to 36 kwh, not quite as large as that of the Zoe but enough to boost the range rating by 57 percent, to 213 km (132 miles) on the South Korean test cycle.

Data shows the average vehicle covers only 40 km (24 mi) a day in South Korea, which means SM3 ZE owners no longer need to recharge daily.

Renault Samsung SM3 ZE electric car, sold in South Korea

Renault Samsung SM3 ZE electric car, sold in South Korea

Enlarge Photo

The Korean version of the former Fluence ZE does not have the removable battery pack of the early versions sent to Better Place, which set up a nationwide network of battery-swap stations in Israel.

Instead, the Samsung SM3 ZE's pack is fixed in place at the front of the trunk—which is longer than the trunk in the gasoline and diesel versions of the Fluence to accommodate the space required for the vertical pack.

CHECK OUT: South Korea to extend electric-car subsidy to long-range vehicles too (Dec 2016)

Renault Samsung said the increase in battery capacity was made to respond to in response to "strong demand" for the electric sedan not only from retail buyers but also state fleets and taxi operators (in Seoul, Daegu and Jeju Island).

The country's Ministry of Health and Welfare also ordered 1,200 of the electric sedans in April 2017.

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