The future of the battery swapping concept looks dim, which is bad news for the pioneering firm Better Place. In an interview with Danish news outlet Energi Watch, Renault-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn seemed to say that Renault’s Fluence ZE will probably be the first and last production vehicle to offer battery swapping capability.
“When you look at the overall trends, we must conclude that the replaceable battery is no longer the main track for electric vehicles,” said Ghosn (translated from the Danish). “The main trail is flat batteries in cars with charging. We believe that people want flexibility in the technology, and we can see that demand is rechargeable standard batteries.”
In 2009, Renault committed to providing Better Place with at least 100,000 swappable Fluence ZEs for its operations in Israel and Denmark. To date, fewer than one percent of that number have been sold, according to PluginCars.com.
In fact, the future of the Fluence ZE itself looks murky at best. Although a Nissan marketing exec recently assured Charged that the model is very much alive, there was no sign of it at the recent Auto Salon in Geneva, although Renault’s other three plug-in models, and Nissan’s LEAF, were proudly and prominently displayed. Renault has sold about 2,000 Fluence ZEs, compared to over 50,000 LEAFs.
Meanwhile, the California Air Resources Board is considering removing battery swapping as a “fast refueling” technology that would be eligible for credits under the state’s Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) regulations – an academic exercise at this point, as no battery-swappable EV is available for sale in California.
Ghosn didn’t completely slam the door on battery swapping – he told Energi News that Renault will continue providing the Fluence ZE to Better Place. “There may be cases where people prefer replaceable batteries – as we have tried to include Israel and Denmark. Here we will continue to offer Fluence with replaceable batteries. There may also be large companies, where they have a huge fleet of cars, and do not want to wait for charging. But it will not be the majority of the market, and going forward, our focus is on the charging technology, among other things, look at our new Nissan LEAF.”