The all-electric Renault Fluence may be the need of the day, but it is still not a viable option in India, writesKartikeya Singhee

At the stop-light, just out of town, I hearthe turn indicator sound as it blinks unbearably loud. Without the rumble of an IC engine, every sound in the all-electric Fluence ZE (Zero Emission) is highlighted. When the light turns green, I flex my right foot with measured enthusiasm, which is greeted with a silent but sprightly exit from the intersection. In the engine bay sits a single synchronous 70kW (95bhp) electric motor for propulsion.

For passenger comfort and practicality, the motor uses a single-speed reduction gear, else its 11,000rpm-plus redline would have been a bit discomforting.

Ride quality

The advantage of peak torque of 23.4kgm from the first revolution is that the effortlessness of progress feels novel every time I prod the accelerator pedal.

The 250kg batteries stacked right behind the rear seat and just fore of the rear axle puts much load on the rear suspension — the ZE weighs around 200kg more than its IC-powered sibling, which affects overall ride quality.

The ZE feels a bit lumpy and thuds through potholes though some tweaks to reduce acoustic disturbance and improve passenger comfort will be made. The light steering saloon is easy to steer, but there isn't much feedback.

Buyers will have to lease the batteries from Renault as the company doesn't plan to sell them.

This means that the Fluence ZE will cost the same to buy and run as a conventional car, and when the 22kWh lithium-ion batteries reach the end of their lifecycle, the car owner swaps them for a new set. Renault claims a real world driving range of 160km but conditions such as weather, use of electrical compressor-based air-conditioning system, terrain and driving habits will affect the 160km range.

To increase driving range, the brakes keep topping up the batteries every time you brake, the regeneration process and deceleration starting as soon as you lift off the accelerator. Consequently, the Fluence ZE doesn't really coast down the road.

Under normal use, when needed, the battery pack can be charged through regular electric plug points at home in six to eight hours, and a special charging system can charge the batteries in 30 minutes as well.

But the coolest and most interesting option is the QuickDrop system, where the car is driven through an electric car's equivalent of a petrol pump.

Mechanised system

Once in the specified bay, a mechanised system rises from a chamber under the ground, unfastens the battery pack from underneath and replaces it with a fully-charged battery pack.

The entire process is mechanised and can be completed in three minutes.

In our country, it will be a while before the ample electric supply is generated, the necessary charging infrastructure developed and incentives offered to make electric vehicles viable.

At this point, it looks like a long wait before we set our hands on the Fluence (priced Rs. 13.7 lakh to Rs. 16.7 lakh) to save mother Earth.

Under normal use, when needed, the battery pack can be charged through regular electric plug points at home in six to eight hours