Battery life may limit the appeal of going electric

18/05/12 at 12:08 AM | 0 Comments
Sean Creedon

Test-driving the Renault Fluence Electric ZE for the first time on the open road, Drive’s Sean Creedon had mixed feelings about the experience

Electric cars are a curious and paradoxical driving experience, offering motorists the most modern driving experience but also evoking the motoring in its infancy almost two centuries ago.

While testing the electric version of Renault’s Fluence last week, I considered it to be a fine drive while blending with the general traffic flow on motorways and busy roads. But out in the countryside, I found the car to be so eerily quiet that it brought to mind the requirement in the British Locomotive Act of 1865 to have someone carrying a red flag walking ahead of a car to alert others of its presence on the road.

While I can hardly see the man with the red flag making a comeback, I would imagine that motorists driving a Fluence would have to pay particularly close attention to pedestrians on country roads who might not hear the vehicle approaching.

Another thought that occurred to me on the quiet rural roads, was how it would be to take an electric car on a lengthy night-time journey along these routes. Undoubtedly it’s safer for pedestrians, who would be alerted by vehicle’s headlights, but the motorist would be concerned about the impact of the lights on the vehicle’s battery.

And this, I suppose, is the biggest problem with electric cars. On the plus side, they are very ‘green’. ZE stands for Zero Emissions, after all. But on the downside, charging of the battery could prove to be a hassle.

The ESB has installed 246 public and 394 private or commercial charge points all over the country. One of the latest public charge points is at Deasy’s, Commons Road. But even the full overnight charge provides the car with a range of just over 100km.

This was my first drive on the open road in an electric car and it was with a little trepidation that I hit the motorway on a wet Tuesday in the Fluence ZE. Nobody seemed to pay any attention, except perhaps to the car’s attractive pale blue colour or the bold ‘ZE-100% Electric’ legend on the front doors.

It’s strange to turn the ignition and not hear the customary sound of an engine starting up. Chances are that you will turn the key a second time. The trick in the ZE is to watch for the green ‘go’ signal on the dash. All electric cars are automatic.

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