Not the least of the pecularities surrounding the C1 ev'ie is that it both is and is not a Citroen. What happens is that Citroen sells standard C1s to the London-based Electric Car Corporation, which then sells them direct to the public after removing the engine and replacing it with an electric motor.
The motor gets its energy from a set of batteries mounted directly above it, and from another battery pack mounted in the rear, where the fuel tank used to be. From the motor onwards, the ev'ie is standard C1, driving through the standard gearbox (which is locked in third), differential and driveshafts. The gearlever is still in place, but it has a new function - push it forwards and that's the way the car goes, pull it back and both the motor and the car switch into reverse.
It really couldn't be much simpler than that, though you do have to get your head round the fact that there is no mechanical noise other than an occasional distant hum. But like all electric vehicles, the ev'ie isn't silent, and in fact you can hear all the usual wind and road noise plus some more that the sound of a petrol or diesel engine would normally have masked. Above about 30mph it doesn't sound very different from a conventional car.
Not that you'll be going much faster than that anyway. There are two criticisms of the ev'ie which at first sight seem devastating but can be quickly refuted, and its lack of performance is one of them. The top speed is 60mph but it will take you forever to get there - the second road I encountered during this test had a 50 limit, and it took a long time to reach that. Furthermore, I wouldn't have been able to keep going for much more than an hour at this rate without having to stop for six hours to recharge the batteries. As an out-of-town car the ev'ie is clearly a non-starter.
But as a city car, and more specifically a London car, it makes a lot more sense. You would rarely hit 30mph in traffic, so the lack of performance would not be an issue, and the range will be much greater (up to 75 miles, which will take a long time to rack up).
The second apparent problem about the ev'ie is its price. The test car was based on the C1 VTR five-door, which costs £8795 in standard form. The ev'ie version costs £17,965 on the road, and there's a similar near-£10,000 premium for the three-door and the less well-equipped VT three- and five-door models. Even with the help of the proposed £5000 grant for buyers of electric vehicles - which won't be introduced until 2011, if at all - the ev'ie is a hugely expensive car.
On the other hand, charging the batteries (the equivalent of filling a fuel tank) costs 95p, there is no congestion charge, parking is much cheaper, the car is exempt from VED and insurance costs are lower. According to the ECC's own figures - which, even if they are not 100% accurate, can at least be taken as a sensible guide - the ev'ie will cost around £6500 a year less to run in London than a petrol car.
If this is true then the ev'ie will have paid for itself in two years, by which time there should still be about five years of life left in the battery. And although other electric cars may be cheaper still, this one is a proper four-seater with the level of comfort and build quality you would expect from something built by a major manufacturer.
Since I don't live in London myself there is not the slightest chance that I would consider buying an ev'ie. It would be far too expensive and far too impractical, and would remain so until there nature and cost of motoring in this country changed radically. But if the day ever comes when I move to the capital and want my own personal transport within the city limits, the ev'ie will suddenly become a very sensible choice.
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