Russian Roulette for Beginners (buying a second hand Fluence in the UK)?
I am considering entering the world of EV ownership and have spent some time looking at the Fluence, given that you can pick up one of the HV12 reg units with 7k miles on the clock for £3.5k.
Of course, I soon discovered all about the battery lease situation, but even with the £106.80 per month (£89+VAT for my estimated 9k miles per year on a 36 month contract), the figures still stacked up.
That is, until I started to look at what would happen at the end of those 3 years...
After several phone calls to RCI Finance (and here, I do have to give my thanks to Richard Suzuki from the RCI Battery Lease team, who was extremely helpful), I discovered the following:
1. At the end of the lease period, you can either:
(a) take out a new lease
(b) sell the car and transfer the lease to the new buyer or
(c) remove and return the battery to Renault and then scrap the car
So, in 3 years the 2012 car would be 7 years old, so (a) might be an option, but I'm still faced with the same options when the car is 10 years old and by then I would have spent £7689.60 in battery lease payments.
I might be lucky with (b), but there's no guarantee that somebody will want to buy a 7 year old EV with a leased battery, given that the battery lease payments over 3 years are likely to exceed the value of the car, especially when you consider (c).
And (c) is where is starts to get interesting. According to Richard at RCI finance, (c) involves:
- taking your car to a Renault dealer, where they will do a full diagnostic check on the battery and remove it. I guess this could be any EV specialist, buy you would then be responsible for any damage in transit (or proving that there hadn't been any)
- paying for the battery to be packed into a shipping crate and having it to be shipped back to the Renault battery plant *in France*
- somehow getting your battery-less Fluence to a scrapyard who I imagine might start making all sorts of charges for disposal of electric components under the WEEE regulations
He had recently overseen this process for a Zoe and said that the costs were EUR2,000 just for the diagnostics, packing and shipping (batteries have to be shipped by some special shipping service in a specially designed crate apparently). When you add the costs of battery removal, flat bed transport to a scrapyard and disposal, I estimate you could be facing a bill of £3k.
Things get more interesting when you start to look at what happens if your car is written off or suffers a mechanical / electrical fault that is not worth repairing outside the warranty period. For an insurance write off, you are still liable for the full replacement cost of the battery (less 10% depreciation per year), so you need to make sure that your insurance company is insuring the car *and* the cost of the battery. I would imagine that might push up the premiums a little. I read somewhere that the Renault list price for the battery is EUR18,000
If your hit with a problem that would cost more to fix than you are prepared to spend, then you are still liable to do (c), so the only sensible way to mitigate this risk is to pay for a comprehensive parts and labour warranty when the Renault one expires. If you don't have a warranty and you choose to scrap your car, then not only are you liable for the costs of (c), but you also need to pay for repair of the battery if it has been damaged as a result of an electrical fault. I didn't even get into how you prove whether the battery caused a problem with the motor or visa-versa. The only plus side is that you are not responsible for the remaining lease payments in either of these scenarios.
When I crunched the numbers again, it turned out that running the Fluence over 5 years (assuming I would be liable for the return of the battery at the end of this period) would cost a little more than my current gas guzzling 2001 BMW 520i. It got to the point where it would be cheaper for me to pay somebody £2k to "buy" the car from me after 5 years. I'm not sure Auto Trader allow you to advertise with negative prices.
(There are a few problems with (b) too. To cover yourself as a seller, you need to make sure that your buyer has signed on the dotted line for a battery lease contract before you transfer ownership of the car. However, I'm quite sure the buyer is not going to want to sign a 3-year lease agreement for a car they do not yet own).
So, sadly, I am going to start looking at other EV vehicles with owned batteries, unless anybody has any different real-world experience. This is a shame, because I genuinely like the Fluence as a car and am prepared to put up with the lack of fast charge options etc. That is, unless anybody has any different real-world experience?