On the evening of the Day 1, people behind Renault's electric vehicle project conducted a presentation to enlighten us on this technology. The electric vehicle has been around in India since the early 2000's through the form of REVA, which until Renault's entry was the world's largest selling electric car.
Over 3,000 examples are on roads today, but the REVA is what karting is to motor racing - its very basic, its sold as a quadricycle in some markets. It uses Lead Acid batteries and the passenger and luggage space seem like an afterthought.
The Beat EV, Fluence Z.E. and Kangoo Z.E. are everyday cars and not purpose built. They are diesel or petrol vehicles with their mechanicals ripped out to be substituted with electric technology. Having cabin space, stowage space, features, safety and functions of an everyday car, they tick the most crucial box - Driver feels comfortable and familiar as he steps into the cabin.
We've discussed how the Fluence Z.E. drives in a previous article. In this posting, we're discussing the pointers from the presentation. From here on content is factual.
Renault believes at least 10% of vehicle sales by 2010 will be contributed by electric cars. With the electric editions of the Fluence and Kangoo, Renault says its in the brink of a revolution.
The Fluence is predicted to have 30% customers from the private category and rest from fleet category.
Renault is signing plenty of public and private partnership for subsidies and setting up of charging stations. In 2012, they will have 50,000 charging terminals in Europe. Portugal already has a few and work's started in France and Germany.
It is predicted that 90% of the charging will be at the customer's home/office through a wall box. It takes 6-8 hours to reach full charge. A normal household socket will take 12 hours to recharge the battery. Renault's 'Quick Charge' that provides 100% charge in 30-60 minutes is being developed.
Charging cable is provided with the car. Charging stations are coming up on supermarkets, parking lots, roadside points and many other public and private infrastructure. Our cars were being charged at the Lisbon airport basement parking and using wall boxes in the hotel.
In countries like Denamark and Australia, battery stations will switch depleted batteries with a fresh one. The car drives over a raised platform and an automated mechanism plucks the used battery from underneath the car and mounts a new one. This form of charging is called Quick Drop. It is not applicable to the Kangoo or vehicles where the battery is spread across the floor.
The Z.E. variant has the exact same equipment as the diesel or petrol variant. It will be sold through the existing dealer network.
Renault says 87% of Europe drives less that 60km/day.
The four aspects influencing range are 1) Speed 2) Kind of driving 3) Land Gradient 4) Outside temperature - If the outside temperature is less, the battery underperforms until the optimal working temperature is reached.
Eco button on the AC uses the temperature regulation judiciously and betters range. Low rolling resistance tires developed by Goodyear specially for Fluence improves range.
Renault tested the Fluence Z.E. in water and dust tunnels to check for leaks and battery reaction.
The vehicle is manufactured at the Oyak plant in Bursa, Turkey which has a capacity of manufacturing 30k units annually. Z.E. centers in Europe will come up for the purpose of handing out test drives.
At 20,900 Euros, the cost of a Renault Fluence Z.E is the same as the diesel Fluence (after incentives). Renault has decided to lease the batteries at 82 Euro a month for a period of three years. It takes an amount of two euros for one full charge in Europe.
The Z.E has 20% less maintenance cost compared to the diesel. There is no business of oil change, filter change and drive belt change on the electric vehicle.