The search for better electric car batteries focuses on factors like price, size, and weight. This week, Samsung announced at the annual Korean auto show that it has increased the size of the battery in its SM3 ZE to 36 kWh — enough to boost range by 57% to 132 miles — with no increase in the weight of the vehicle. That’s a remarkable achievement.
The Samsung SM3 is the Korean version of the Renault Fluence, a midsize sedan that the French company first brought to market in 2009. Production of the Fluence for the European market ended in 2016, but the company continues to build the car in Argentina and Korea, where it is marketed under the Samsung brand as the SM3.
A battery electric version of the Fluence appeared in 2013 and caused a bit of a stir, as it was the first electric car designed to use the battery swapping technology pioneered by Better Place, a dream that died as EV charging infrastructure improved. The SM3 ZE (for Zero Emissions) has proven to be one of the most popular electric cars in Korea, where it is frequently used as a taxi. The Korean government purchsed 1,200 SM3 ZE cars last year for its own fleet.
The greater range means that a typical owner will be able to drive 5 days without recharging the car, given that the average daily use of car in Korea is less than 25 miles. The car lists for around $34,000 in Korea, but that country’s generous EV incentives can lower that cost considerably.
“Groupe Renault, Europe’s number one EV brand and the market’s pioneer, is in the process of introducing second-generation versions of its electric vehicles,” said Gilles Normand, senior vice president for electric vehicles at Renault in a press release from the auto show. “As laid out in our Drive the Future plan, this process will enable Groupe Renault to strengthen its geographical and segment coverage and foster a step-up in the electric vehicle market.”
The Renault Zoe, a slightly smaller version of the Nissan LEAF, is one of the best selling electric cars in France and the rest of Europe. Sharing technology between the Zoe, the LEAF, and the SM3 allows research and development costs for electric cars to be spread over a larger number of units, keeping prices down while expanding the performance envelope of all models.