Test drive: ECC Citroen C1 Evie electric car

20 August 2009

We’re travelling east on the A4 between Chiswick’s Hogarth Roundabout and the Hammersmith flyover. The speedo reads 45mph, the satnav says 40mph, but the stomach insists we’re oscillating somewhere between the two. It feels like this Citroen C1 hatchback is intermittently not firing on all cylinders, the constant throttle position failing to translate to a smooth and sustained speed. But of course we’re not losing a cylinder because we’re travelling by battery, not by internal combustion. If there’s a misfire anywhere it must be among the transistors of this converted ECC Evie electric car.

The rocking motion gets worse the faster we go, so it’s fortunate that acceleration runs out at 60mph. We haven’t packed any sea-sickness tablets.

ECC Evie outside the Tesla showroomIt’s a shame that this lumpiness dominates our test drive, because almost everything else about the Evie is smooth and highly polished. It’s easy and very pleasant to pilot around town, being a small car with good visibility, large mirrors, a decent horn, electric power steering and enough low-speed get-up-and-go to nip into gaps. The 30kW (40bhp) motor, fed by 25 lithium ion batteries, hauls the car smoothly from nought to 30mph in about eight seconds with foot flat to the floor. This doesn’t sound quick, but it’s more than fast enough for inner-city cut and thrust.

The Evie is ghostly quiet inside and out – the Citroen base car being infinitely better built than the ramshackle EV efforts of Reva or Aixam. The fat-friend weight of the batteries doesn’t spoil the softish suspension, meaning road humps and cracked urban asphalt can be traversed with the minimum of fuss.

The driving position is good, helped by the adjustable wheel and marred only by slightly narrow seats and a little lack of left-foot resting room. There’s nothing to keep that foot busy, of course. The Evie’s gearbox offers only forward, neutral and reverse, with no clutch and no park position. The handbrake is conventional and, in a probably pointless attempt to avoid wasting power on brake lights, we use it more than we otherwise might when stationary in traffic. The car doesn’t creep from a standstill without throttle, and the regenerative braking succeeds beautifully in feeling like ordinary, predictable engine braking.

C1 Evie dashboardA circular pod emerging like a giant plastic mushroom from the instrument cowl keeps us in the loop about the battery’s remaining charge, with both a digital percentage display and a row of green, amber and red lights. These LEDs helpfully start to wink in turn as you approach each quarter of capacity.

In our test we travel about 13 miles – from Westminster via Knightsbridge to Chiswick and back again, deliberately plying the kind of route this city car is destined to travel. After all, at about £17,000, the Evie is far from cheap to buy. But it does offer low ongoing costs for well-heeled drivers who like to park and travel inside London’s congestion zone, into which EVs can slip without cost.

We keep pace with ordinary traffic during our test, which tends to involve using the car’s power to the full for much of the time. Our round trip leaves 61% in reserve, equating to a total range of about 34 miles, well short of the manufacturer’s quoted 60-mile maximum between six-hour charges. No doubt a more feather-footed driving style would extend the range dramatically, but we would definitely want to think twice or even three times before heading off to a destination more than 15 miles away.

G-Wiz and C1 EV connected to charging postsOverall, we’re disappointed but impressed by the Evie, if that verdict makes sense. It is a better car than we thought from our first brief taste, but is not quite the persuasive package we had hoped for. It is a better bet than the similarly-priced G-Wiz L-ion if only because more of the speed on offer will be usable without fear of disintegration, although the much lighter G-Wiz will probably do better in real-world range.

Our test Evie was very kindly supplied by Zipcar, the car-sharing club. Members can drive this exact car for a very reasonable £3.95 per hour. We were duly impressed by Zipcar’s operation, and will look at it in more detail in a follow-up post to come shortly.

Zipcar’s Evie, SP09 OOJ, has led a varied life so far. It took a starring role at the Evie launch event in April, standing alongside ECC top brass on the plush carpet inside the Royal Lancaster Hotel, and was photographed on a golf course for a CAR Magazine Giant Test published last month, where it was pitched against the G-Wiz, Mitsubishi i-Miev and Smart ForTwo Ed. It won that round against the opposition.

Not having sampled the i-Miev or Ed, we’ll have to take CAR’s word for it.


Sven said...

I just read your test drive article about the ECC Citroen C1 Ev'ie, and I almost get the feeling that you have misscalculated the total range.

The test drive was said to be 13 miles and back gain (26 miles total). I am confused over the following sentence, "Our round trip leaves 61% in reserve, equating to a total range of about 24 miles, well short of the manufacturer's quoted 60-mile maximum between six-hour charges."

If the batter meter showed 61% after 13 miles the calculated range would be 33 miles. If however, the batter meter showed 61% after the whole trip (26 miles) the calculated total range would be 67 miles.

Did you get 61% after 13 miles or after 26 miles? I assume the battery was full when you started.

I strongly believe that the range would be at least 50 miles which is the range of really old electric cars.

Please tell me what you think!

GreenMotor said...

Unfortunately there is no mistake - the test drive was a 13 mile round trip from start to finish - you can see the route we drove on Google maps here http://tinyurl.com/lc8o37 (it says 13.2 miles total, my satnav said 13.1 miles and the car's odometer went from 1107 to 1121 during the test). We used 13.1 miles for the calculation, which with 39% charge used means a total indicated range of 33.6 miles. The battery meter showed 100% when the test started.

We think the low range came about because about half the test was done at 40mph, with very little opportunity for regenerative braking. Around town it might do better. Also, as stated in the article, we drove at the pace of ordinary traffic, which means full acceleration a lot of the time as the Ev'ie feels quite slow off the mark. Again, if you drove more gently, you would get more miles.

But we were disappointed by the range and agree it doesn't look good.

Anonymous said...

State of charge indicators will very often take a fast initial dive when you do the first 20% capacity due to the nature of lithium batteries but then spend a longer time showing 50%. A fully charged voltage for lifepo4 (160ah thundersky cells in the C1 Ev'ie I think x25) cell can be between 3.6v and 3.9v depending on the circuits implemented. Within seconds they settle to 3.3-3.2v until the last ten percent. It has 25 cells starting at 3.6v x 25=90v. Immediately as load is applied it dips to 80v and as complicated and expensive as some things are, including my own £200 model aircraft chargers, they assume a huge chunk of power just went up in,,,erm..electrons.

Below is a review where they actually drove it from almost full with a possible regen failure and got 45 miles on the first try. Heres the quote to watch for so you can ignore any poor info on this page using maths from an instrument panel rather than actually just driving the car.

"As I drove around I watched the energy meter carefully as it did seem to take a bit of a dive rather quickly and very soon the digits where going down to 75% and then 65% but we hadn’t travelled that far just 10 or so miles but then appeared to level out and was more uniformed there after"


Theres enough hate about electric cars and battery/range promises from manufacturers, Dont make it worse by publishing poorly obtained guess work as fact.

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