One little discussed casualty of the closure of Better Place is the Renault Fluence Z.E., an electric car which has sold in relatively paltry numbers despite three years of sales. That could change with a new deal between Renault and China’s Dongfeng which will see Fluence Z.E. production restarted in China, reports Reuters.
When Better Place struck a deal with Renault to produce the Fluence Z.E. with swappable electric batteries, it promised to revolutionize the electric car industry. Agassi placed an order for 100,000 Fluence Z.E. compact sedans, and claimed to have sold 70,000 of those through pre-orders a year before the charging and swapping network went online. In reality, Better Place wound up selling fewer than 1,500 Fluence Z.E.s with swappable batteries between its two primary markets, Isreal and Denmark, and Renault didn’t do much better with the fixed-battery version in France.
All told less than 3,500 total Fluence electric sedans were sold worldwide before production ceased last year, and the unsold stock of cars were to be sent to the crusher. This new plan with Dongfeng gives the Fluence a second life though as Dongfeng attempts to get in on China’s big electric vehicle push. According the Nissan-Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn, the company is “ready to build” the Fluence Z.E. in China, where it will join other “zombie” EVs like the Saab 9-3 Electric. The Fluence also exists in Korea as the Renault Samsung SM3 ZE with the fixed battery, and Ghosn has already pledged to never again build swappable battery EVs.
Fast charging is the way forward for electric cars, and the promise of battery swapping is as dead as Project Better Place. But the Renault Fluence Z.E. gets a second chance at life thanks to China. That seems to be a recurring theme these days.