By on December 7, 2009

evie5

The Toyota Aygo, which is the (in-all-but-styling) identical twin of the Citroen C1, is a fine little car, and when I tested it in 2007, I found most everything about it likeable. Packaging, finish, styling, handling, pleasure of driving: the Aygo/C1 turned out to be a thoroughly modern and enjoyable car for a bare-bones price. Only the ride struck me as a bit harsh. I certainly didn’t complain about the revvy, pleasant-sounding and parsimonious engine either, so you might be surprised to hear that I like the electrified version of the C1 just as well. Or, with qualifications, even more. What the heck do I mean? Please bear with me, and I’ll tell you.

evie1The U.K. – based Electric Car Company (ECC) was founded by a guy who made his fortune with electronic traffic management systems. Intrigued with the idea of a zero-emission car, he tried some out, and thought he could easily do a whole lot better. The ev’ie, thus, does not look like something some blokes in a garage screw together in their spare evenings. What ECC does is buy C1s, remove the engine and gas tank, and add batteries, motor, heater, and an engine-management system. Open the hood and you see batteries and various electronic gizmos mostly bedecked by plastic casing. It looks clean and assembly-line standard, and not at all improvised. A second set of Lithium batteries is where the gas tank used to be. The trunk, in contrast to the sodium-batteried E-Twingo, is undiminished. So the ev’ie is what the stock C1 is what the Aygo is what the Peugeot 107 is: a lightweight, almost Smart-short car that can transport four and a tiny bit of luggage. (Don’t get me wrong: this is no limo, but it certainly beats an original VW Beetle for space. And the room in front is perfectly adequate in all dimensions unless you’re a widebody).

Incidentally, the ev’ie’s interior has optional plastichrome highlights I have never seen on a C1 outside of the U.K. I don’t like it, but that may just be a German complaining about British taste.

So what’s it like to drive? Well, you buckle up, turn the key, watch the battery indicator lights (where the tachometer is on regular C1s) fire up, and put the car in “forward” gear (there’s also a neutral and rear gear, but no clutch). When you disengage the hand brake and press on the gas pedal, you hear a soft zingy electric sound well-known to those who travel on streetcars or high-speed trains. As you start moving, the zingy sound disappears and then… nothing. Basically no motor sound at all. It’s eerie and somewhat different from other EVs I have driven. evie11

I drove the ev’ie through London in Kensington and Westminster, and with the help of ECC’s Richard Turnbull who knows where traffic cameras are located, was able to take it up to semi-highway speed. Here’s my verdict. Not fast, but acceptable acceleration, and zero drama: overall very pleasant.

Don’t discount the zero drama thing. Within minutes, you stop missing the vibration, the non-linear acceleration, the various noise levels, of internal-combustion driving. You do suffer from a kind of disorientation from a while, not quite knowing how fast you’re going, which in combination with left-hand-side driving (I don’t often drive in the U.K), forced me to concentrate. But the overall effect is relaxing. No wonder: a linear speed-to-noise relationship is something we know from all kinds of propulsion, except airflight and ICE motoring.

As in the stock C1, the steering is fine, with the right level of directness and assistance. If I had to qualify a difference, I’d say the ev’ie feels more solid. The regenerative braking system, which charges the batteries when you lift off the gas pedal or brake, is smooth and capable.

So all is well on the electric front? Not quite. With a top speed of 60 mph and a reported distinct wheeziness on higher-speed hills, this is no more than an urban/suburban car. The electric-utility boss in Zurich I wrote about: he’d be less than satisfied with 41HP pushing 890KG, which is a power-to-weight ratio of a 1960s Beetle. (You do have all the torque the motor can muster – 112lb ft– from standstill, though). And the range is only 60 miles, so forget vacationing with ev’ie.

evie3But nevertheless: it’s the only really good-to-drive, affordable, crashworthy, zero-emission car on the market today. Which is sure saying something! But does it make any financial sense at all? Electric cars are famously expensive. Well, prime your inner nerd and allow me to do the data thing, please.

The ev’ie costs about £18,500, which is a whopping £8,000 more than a stock C1. A utility charges 90 pence for around 60 miles worth of electricity. Assuming a yearly mileage of 10,000 miles per year based on 50 miles/day and 200 commuting days, the ev’ie would thus require electricity costing around £144 per year. Fuel costs, in contrast, would amount to £1,144, if one assumed a cost of £1.1 per liter and a fuel consumption of 6.5L/100km (equivalent to 36.2 MPG US). The difference, according to this calculation, would be one thousand Pounds ($1,645) per year. At current prices, therefore, a commuter would need over seven years to amortize the cost of the ev’ie in comparison to a stock C1. Even at these formidable European fuel price levels. Bummer!

But wait. In the U.K., an electric car costs less in insurance, and zero in road tax too. Both can easily add up to £200 per year. But that’s only the beginning. In London, and soon in many other U.K. towns, there is a congestion charge for gasoline cars – but none for electrics. Which saves you £1,600 based on a commute to London 200 days a year. And parking, depending on which community you stay in, is much cheaper for an EV. In Westminster, for example, it’s £200 per year for the ev’ie, as opposed to £4,000 for a normal car. Not enough? The U.K government plans a £5k purchasing incentive for electric cars starting in 2011. But even at the present time, incentives in an electric-evie4friendly place like the U.K easily add up to a cost advantage of £2k to £7k per year, so you can recoup the cost of this car within 2-3 years. At which point it becomes almost compelling, even without thinking about global warming, emissions, terrorists and foreign oil despots, or rising fuel costs. Or without looking at the trend lines: that petroleum-based transport is fated to become more expensive year by year, while the cost of batteries is set to sink.

Of course, the ev’ie only makes sense because the U.K. government has determined that the negative externalities (the “costs to society”) of electric cars are much lower than those of a petroleum-engined one, and has changed its charge regime accordingly. Other governments are following suit, like it or not.

Bottom line: the first reasonable electric car is a Citroen that some fellows in Hertfordshire convert to a feasible proposition, to a pleasant and safely-driving vehicle, in 24 man-hours. This sure isn’t a car for everybody; its range and speed limitations means it excels as a commuter but not as anything else. But it does throws mud in the face of most of the major car makers.

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30 Comments on “Review: Citroen C1 ev’ie...”


  • avatar

    Interesting analysis. Yes, it might be tempting in parts of the UK as a second car. But a range of 60 miles greatly restricts any spontaneity. I generally like to fill my gas tank when the tank gets down to where I have roughly enough gas to go 50 miles.
    Martin: plural’s do not take apostrophe’s. (see C1′s, which you have twice.)
    –the copy editor

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      C1′s is correct; it’s an acronym. milf’s, ev’s, LT1′s etc.

    • 0 avatar
      another_pleb

      I don’t know where you learnt grammar Fincar1 but David Holzman was quite correct when he said that the plural of C1 is C1s. The same goes for any acronyms.
      Anyway, I’d like to point out a few observations about the article.
      The author of the article neglected to mention that the annual road tax for a C1 with a petrol engine should be £35 pounds and not £200. I have only ever had less than 50 mpg (imperial) in my Aygo in the depths of winter and then, never less than 48 mpg. This might skew Mr. Schw0erer’s calculations. Additionally, the ‘plastichrome’ fittings in the C1 are easily removed and replaced with ones in more muted hues.
      One question did occur to me. Does the car retain its spare wheel or is its space taken by a bunch of battery cells?

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    I get it. It’s a large golf cart. Fortunately the UK is fairly flat, and it never gets to be really cold. If I move there (very doubtful) I will think about buying one.

    • 0 avatar
      dolorean23

      You make a good point. I have to also wonder, was the drive to 60 miles on a perfect 72 degree sunny day, which as I remember is a rarity in merry ole England. How far can you go when its raining and you have the defroster, windshield wipers, and radio on?

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    Nice, but how long are govt supports for negative externalities going to last if substantial numbers of motorists make the switch, causing tax and parking revenues to drop? It might be a good idea to be an early adopter before the incentives dry up.

  • avatar

    I lived in the UK for a while in the 90s. I honestly found that public transport (mostly in the form of trains) was sufficient for all my commuting needs, despite living 90 miles from my office, and traveling all over the country for my weekend job (I was an on-ice official in the small, but well-spread out professional hockey league.) We owned one car, and it served as a grocery getter and for traveling around the UK on summer weekends.
    If I lived in London I wouldn’t have needed a car at all. Of course living in London requires far more capital than I could ever have, so as a man with a wife & 2 kids, I lived far from the city.
     
     

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    When you C1, ‘Aygo down the road pretty well…
    Interesting how a car that’s not competitively priced for purchase gets cheaper over the long haul. I’m sure we’ll see that happen as more and more electric contraptions take to our roads in the States.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Video link here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHMMlURBh14

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    The scary part is that the whole apostrophe thing has spread to adverts and signage.

    Most millenials no longer know that there’s a difference between plural and posessive.

    Oh well. Living languages change.  

  • avatar

    fincar,
    Acronym plurals do not take apostrophes. BMWs, EVs, EMTs, not BMW’s, EV’s, EMT’s.

  • avatar
    fiatdriver

    “An apostrophe is used by some writers to form a plural for abbreviations, acronyms, and symbols where adding just s rather than ‘s may leave things ambiguous or inelegant.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostrophe#Use_in_forming_certain_plurals

  • avatar

    Fiatdriver,
    This is a statement of fact–some writers do throw in an apostrophe under these circumstances. But that doesn’t make it good usage. Further, in 99% of these circumstances, adding the “s” without the apostrophe does not make things either ambiguous or inelegant. Finally, while Wikipedia is a fine place to check things out, it’s not a reliable reference.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Wow thanks everybody for bringing the topic of inconsistent treatment of the apostrophe to my attention. Generally I am a stickler for using them only for the genitive form. But somehow things went wrong when I wrote this.
     
    I can tell you that I am a member of the facebook group “If you don’t know the difference between ‘its’ and ‘it’s’, then you deserve to die”, but not of the corresponding apostrophe club; maybe I should consider expanding my affiliations.

  • avatar

    Martin,

    I may have to join facebook just so that I can join these subgroups!

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    There is, in reality, no “official” English/American language.

    If the incorrect usage of  the apostrophe takes over, well then, it does. Against my will, to be sure, but such is living language.

    As one of the key folks at OED will tell you, “Dictionaries are descriptive, not proscriptive”.

  • avatar
    Bleys852

    Wow is this a car review or an english essay. I personally dont give a rats *ss’s about apostrophes and their correct usage.  I’m here to read about cars.

  • avatar

    “What ECC does is buy C1s, remove the engine and gas tank, and add batteries, motor, heater, and an engine-management system.”
     
    So, what does ECC do with the leftover C1 engines?

  • avatar

    Just out of curiosity, what is the cost (if any) of a charging station for this vehicle?  I would think that one would have to factor such a cost in when calculating the cost/benefit ratio from the buyer’s perspective.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Auric, thanks for asking.
     
    They sell the engines and the gas tanks.
    Charging station: London has a few hundred on-street stations already installed. You get free parking and pay for the charging. London also has a program to encourage companies to electrify their employee parking lots. If you have a garage, you can just plug in — no station required.

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    Interesting review. I’m intrigued as to how Electric Vehicles are evolving. Once someone develops a much better battery giving a 300+ mile range with quick recharge I think they will become a much more viable proposition.
    However, will people PLEASE stop calling them zero emissions… Where the hell do people think most electricity in the UK comes from? Coal fired power stations or Nuclear power. Now I don’t exactly call that environmentally friendly.

    • 0 avatar
      ctoan

      Nuclear is zero-emissions as well, and if nothing goes wrong with the operation and dumping of waste should have basically no effect on the environment.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      ctoan, trust me, nuclear is not zero-emissions. A nuclear plant will require a monstrous amount of concrete and other materials to construct. The mining of the nuclear fuel isn’t dust free either.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Maestro Sinistro, the zero emission thing is local, where I think it counts. Where kids get asthma and buildings get grey from dust (not only from internal combustion engines, but also from brake pads, which are hardly in use when you have regenerative braking).
    If CO2 from power plants is your pet peeve, then I’d gently suggest you buy your electricity from renewable sources. Over here in Germany, you can chose, and it costs a surcharge of 10% to go renewable, which I am willing to pay, all things considered.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    Question 1:  Does this car turn into a giant dancing, skating, or running robot too?  If so, I want one!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyAUo_qkefA
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhtGBaEOEVs&NR=1
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPWpe4dXUfU&NR=1

    Comment 1:  I’m all for trying to use proper punctuation and spelling at any and all times, but we do make mistakes and we do tend to become “casual” at times. 

    I consider this site’s content to be true journalism.  True journalism is different from mere “blogging”.  I appreciate the effort that the editors make toward proper use of the language, and I especially appreciate that they willingly correct errors when found, rather than blaming the readers who may find them. 

    Writing, editing, and publishing is not an easy job.  And it’s all the more challenging here, considering the international background of contributors and readers.  TTAC does a wonderful job of walking that high wire!

    That said, I have recently taken to disregarding the proper placement of the comma inside of quotation marks.  This is not the best example, but when the sentence reads better like “this”, rather than like “that,” then that’s how I write it; rules be damned!

  • avatar
    Sunspot

    I loved the little Aygo’s and their Citreon and Pugeot equivalants when living in the UK.  Sure wish they would bring them here…especially with the plug- in option.  Not everone needs to have a +300 range.  I live 4 miles from my work, and use my car only for that - Yes, I would love to ride the bike but that 4 miles is treacherous for pedestrians.

    Get over with with the apostrophies…

  • avatar
    fred schumacher

    Carlos Ghosn spoke yesterday on Renault/Nissan’s expansion into battery cars. He saw the industry trending that way. However, the idea of roads full of pure BEVs with limited reserve range is an invitation to massive traffic jams as vehicles run out of juice in the middle of the commute with no way to get off the road.

    A small IC genset would provide range extension and get-home ability. For this C1, something in the range of 5 to 10 kW would do it, along with a 2 gallon fuel tank. If the engine is single-cylinder long-stroke, Atkinson cycle with Fiat Multiair style throttle plate-less variable valve timing, it could operate at very high efficiency and take up little room.

    Such a scheme would provide a role for biofuels, since the quantity needed would be more than an order of magnitude less than what we use now of petroleum based fuels.

  • avatar
    phxmotor

    Its’-its been almost 15 months since this thread was written;

    Does anyone have any knowlege of how successful were sales of the the C1?
    and the EEC C1?
    What kind of people in which countries buy – and drive – these Citroens?

    Anyone know anything?
    6 – 4 -2011

  • avatar
    funnfaz

    I have a C1 electric car i have disconnected the battery to have some repair carried out to the gear box of the car. i now connected back the batteries but the car would not go, I have a fully charged battery, it is showing 95% it would only move for about 3 meters forward and 3 meters backwards, then comes up with the word stall. does anyone knows if i have to carry out any resetting procedures or can anyone help me to resolve this problem?

    thank you
    -funnfaz


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