Plug-in, recharge and go

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 March, 2012, 12:00am


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Electric cars are popular in many world cities, but have yet to catch on in Hong Kong.

There are about 370 recharging stations across town, but only 300 of the city's 630,000-odd licensed vehicles are plug-ins, the South China Morning Post reported on March 17.

Hong Kong's choice of electric cars has been limited, however, with options ranging from the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV compacts to the Tesla Roadster supercar (from HK$1.07 million), which promises 100km/h sprints in about four seconds and a drive range of about 390km.

Now Renault offers its Fluence Z.E. via the French marque's local dealers, Wearnes Motors, for HK$388,000. Launched at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Fluence Z.E. is the saloon segment's first plug-in vehicle, Renault says. Aimed at cost- and emissions-conscious households and fleet operators, the Z.E. is 13cm longer than the original petrol-powered version, at 4.75 metres, to allow its lithium-ion batteries to sit behind the rear seats. The electric car also has a more open grille, longer quarter panels and a longer rear overhang than the original Fluence, and flaunts its driver's environmentalism with blue tints to the lights, badges and logos, and alloy wheels that 'have been designed to reduce aerodynamic turbulence', Renault says.

The Z.E. has a comfortable interior with adjustable steering wheel and an integrated navigation system that has been 'networked and adapted' for electric vehicles, it says.

The saloon is also fitted with a Bluetooth telephony system, dual-zone automatic climate controls, and automatic headlight and wiper activation, all of which can be activated from the steering wheel.

Electric car engines tend to whirr rather than vroom, but Renault has paid close attention to the cabin's soundproofing to reduce engine noise.

'At standstill, the car seems to be 'switched off', although an audible signal - coupled with a 'GO' light - tells you that Fluence Z.E. is ready to drive,' the marque says. 'It pulls away in total silence, but you soon become guided by wind and road noise. Driving is calmer; motoring has never felt quite so Zen.'

The Z.E.'s electric motor punches 70kW of power, 'the equivalent to 95 horsepower', Renault says, at 3,000rpm. The plug-in also has 226Nm of torque and an average charge range of about 180km on Goodyear-developed EfficientGrip, low-rolling resistance tyres.