Electric Renault costs more to run than a diesel Which? tests prove Fluence will dent your finances

30 August 2012

Renault Fluence 1

The promise of cheap running costs for electric cars appears to be running flat. Which? Car research shows that the monthly cost of running a Renault Fluence ZE is significantly higher than an equivalent diesel car.

Renault claims that the cost of the energy used by its Fluence ZE is between five and 10 times lower than that of the fuel burned in an internal combustion-engined vehicle.

That claim is borne out by Which? testing, which reveals that fuelling costs are around 5.5 times less than for a comparable diesel car. However, the Fluence ZE is more costly to run overall once you factor in Renault’s monthly battery lease fee.

Cheap to buy, costly to run

Renault prices the Fluence ZE from £22,495 which, after the Government’s £5,000 grant for plug-in electric vehicles, drops to £17,495. That's much less than other fully-electric cars, and comparable with petrol and diesel-engined rivals.

The main reason for the lower purchase price is that you don’t buy the battery pack with the car – you lease it. Renault charges £103 per month to lease the batteries for 12,000 miles a year over three years.

Which? Car put the Fluence ZE through its rigorous lab tests and found that its overall range averaged 86 miles (some way short of the claimed 115 miles).

The cost to recharge the car’s 22kWh battery at the current average domestic electricity rate of 14.39p per kWh is £3.17. In terms of pure fuel costs, that equates to an impressively low £36.80 per month if you do 1,000 miles a month.

Renault Fluence 3

Electric versus diesel

One of the Fluence's closest rivals, the diesel-engined Skoda Octavia 1.6 TDI Greenline (priced at £17,975), costs £102.86 to fuel over the same distance - an average of 60.1mpg, according to Which? Car tests.

However, adding in the cost of battery leasing takes the Fluence ZE’s monthly cost to £139.81 – some £36.95 more than the Octavia’s. 

Even if you drive fewer miles, the Fluence ZE remains more expensive. Renault charges £76 per month for battery leasing at 6,000 miles a year over a three-year period, resulting in an overall monthly cost of £94.40. The Skoda Octavia diesel would cost £61.43 per month overall, some £32.97 less.

Renault does include free servicing with the Fluence ZE; this would cost the Octavia owner £10.93 per month under a fixed-price 12,000-mile-per-year service package. 

Both the Fluence ZE and the Octavia 1.6 TDI Greenline qualify for zero annual VED (car tax) and exemption from congestion charging because their CO2 emissions are below 100g/km.

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