Here's a car that will give oil companies a run for their money
No anxiety over no power Plugging the Fluence into an electrical outlet for two hours juices it up for another 20km -- PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN

Let's face it, the oil companies have got us by our family jewels. And they are squeezing. Not too hard, lest we run screaming into the arms of Alternative Energy. But just enough to allow Big Oil to continue its enslaving dominance.

That alone should be reason enough for the world to consider electric cars - not as playthings for the idle rich, but clean and viable mobility options for the ordinary motorist.

If you need proof that such a car exists, look at the Renault Fluence ZE. It is a full-size sedan with ample room for five, even if its boot is compromised by its sizeable battery pack.

That pack, however, ensures that the Fluence has a decent range on a full charge.

Colleagues who have driven the car cite 'range anxiety' as something they find hard to cope with in the lithium battery-powered saloon.

To be honest, I have not had this feeling because I do not clock 120km (the car's realistic range) a day. At the very most, on a busy weekend, I will cover 90 to 100km.

Secondly, I am quite confident that I can get to an electrical socket. After all, this is Singapore, one of the most urbanised cities on Earth.

For instance, while out of the house this week, I found myself with the car in Reserve power (which should be good for another 20km or so, but with reduced performance, no cruise control and a chime that comes on every five seconds).

So, when I got back to the office, I parked near an electrical outlet and plugged in. By the time I left, which was about two hours later, the range meter showed 22km, which meant I could drive for at least 40km - more than enough for the evening.

The Fluence is as usable as any regular sedan. Instant usable torque, quieter than a Lexus, decent ride and handling despite a rear-heavy construction (battery pack in an extended boot), and lots of cabin space and modern amenities (navigation for instance, is standard issue).

All in all, its performance approximates that of a 1.6-litre Toyota Corolla. It is extremely easy to use - heck, I can drive it practically with my thumb. Set the cruise speed, and regulate using the Off and Resume button on the steering wheel. Pressing Off brings about discernible 'engine braking' as the car goes into power regeneration mode. Do this as you approach a bend and you will slow down enough to enter it without touching the brake pedal. Hit Resume as you are about to exit and voila.

If you are a keen observer of traffic and road conditions, you can drive this way by selecting an appropriate speed. No regular car I know does this so well.

Likewise, you can coast to a halt with hardly any braking if you tab Off when you spot a queue forming ahead. With practice, you will know the distance you need, given the speed you are at.

It is also the best way to enjoy the Fluence ZE, as the car, like most electric vehicles, has mediocre 'throttle' response. The cruise control, however, is very responsive.

I charge it every two days, plugging the exhaust-free sedan in before I go to bed. Should Singapore switch to nuclear power in the future, this car - and others like it - will let us break free from the oil barons once and for all.