Unlike its Nissan alliance distant cousin, the Leaf, the Renault Fluence ZE electric car hasn’t exactly broken sales records. On the contrary, following the demise of the Israeli start up “Better Place”, the operator of battery-swapping EV stations, Renault has reportedly stopped making the Fluence ZE altogether.
Better Place was the main customer for the Fluence ZE vehicle, which was developed to the Israeli company’s requirements in order to be compatible with its battery-replacing stations. According to a report from Israel’s Globes business daily, Renault has pulled the plug on the Fluence ZE, with the Turkey plant no longer producing the EV.
Although the Fluence ZE also had a version featuring a permanent rechargeable battery, Renault saw no business case for the car following Better Place’s bankruptcy. Renault stopped production of the replaceable battery version immediately after the Israeli company’s demise in May 2013, and recently decided to axe the rechargeable version as well due to poor sales. Renault has issued no official statement on this matter.
On the bright side, the Fluence ZE platform was not developed in vain, as it continues life in the form of the Renault Samsung SM3 ZE, an identical car only available with a rechargeable battery version. The SM3 ZE may be more successful, as the South Korean government is actively supporting electric vehicles.
According to industry sources, the French carmaker has invested hundreds of millions of euros in the development and production of the Fluence ZE, including in its replaceable battery. In addition, Better Place’s investors lost $800 million.
Israeli owners of Renault Fluence ZE models have been reassured though by importer Carasso Motors that the carmaker will continue to support cars already sold in Israel.
By Dan Mihalascu