Round the block with the ECC Evie

1 May 2009

Evie electric carWell we got the price wrong. The ECC Evie electric car went on sale yesterday and costs from £16,850, not £15,000 as we’d hoped. Nearly 17 grand is a substantial increase on the C1's base list price of £7,795 – which is before the generous discount you can expect from a double-chevron dealer – and serves to underscore that lithium ion batteries remain as cheap to buy as Jimmy Choo shoes.

ECC’s swanky London launch was attended by lots of people in suits, seasoned with the odd journalist or indeed blogger standing out by virtue of their sartorial slumming and canapĂ© cramming. The suits were mostly potential customers or partners – we small-talked with people from a breakdown provider, an energy company and a local authority.

We are still waiting for some basic facts about the Evie – we don’t know how much power or torque its electric motor produces, for example, although we can tell you that it doesn’t feel like there’s much of either under the bonnet. Drivers hoping to explore the Evie’s 60mph top speed will be in for a long wait.

The car does look and feel well put together, though. The interior is pure Citroen, with the existing gauges and controls. There’s still a tiny petrol pump symbol next to the LCD gauge that now shows battery charge, for example. And because the batteries aren’t lumps of lead, weight and weight distribution are good – at 900-odd kilograms the car weighs about the same as a standard C1 plus a fat friend. It all feels very comfortable and normal. Even the hot air blower works, by virtue of an immersion heater in the existing matrix, apparently, now that the waste heat from the engine coolant is no longer available.

Lifting the bonnet reveals a nondescript black box and chunky cables plus, surprisingly, the car’s original lead-acid battery. This presumably powers the ancillaries like lights, wipers, heated rear window and stereo.

We weren’t allowed to drive the car for long enough to get a real feel for it, unfortunately, due to coming low on the totem pole of people likely to buy one. We find the price a little offputting – “We can’t get round the cost,” admits ECC big cheese David Martell, wishing that the government’s promised £5,000 subsidy were available right now. It may help if you’re buying on the company tab or with the public purse, and where there are tax breaks and writedowns and PR spinoffs and things to ease the invoice through. Martell hopes to shift 500 in the next 12 months and several thousand the year after, in the UK, Spain and France. We worry that 500 might be a bit optimistic.

We liked the car, though. We wish it were a bit faster off the line, and if we’re brutally honest we’d prefer it based on a Toyota Aygo. Yes, the C1 and Aygo are the same under the skin, but it’s the Citroen’s skin – well, its nose – that reminds us of a pig. And in a swine-fever-gripped world, snouty is not a good look.

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