my week driving the (very) small EV from Citroen

‘I’ve never been car proud, but it takes some getting used to,’ says Markwell about the Citroen Ami – Paul Grover

We’re doing it all wrong with electric cars. Instead of big, heavy monsters that may or may not have a range of over 300 miles and all the bells and whistles to satisfy a car enthusiast, we should be thinking: make it smaller, lighter, slower.

Before you get all furious, remember this: I’m talking about cars for cities. If you live outside the city, make sure you have a large electric car (if you have a large electric budget). But I’m not convinced that most people who go on about fear of range and not being able to drive from Penzance to Cambridge without struggling to find a charger ever actually *want* to go all the way to ride. It is the idea because they can’t do it, they all get excited.

I just want something to get to and from work, around the shops and in and out of the city center (yes, I live in London). That’s why I’ve been driving the same small, tinny electric vehicle for the past fifteen years (you can read more about it here).

The reality for anyone living in built-up areas is that the distances traveled are quite small and the speed limit is likely to be 50 km/h or, increasingly, 30 km/h, so there is new (or renewed for us early adopters) interest in the smaller end of the market. There is a real demand for such tiddlers, with a six-week wait from ordering for the Citroen Ami.

‘I just want something to get to and from work, around the shops and in and out of the city centre,’ says Markwell – Paul Grover

I had heard and read about the vehicle – not least in the Telegraaf – but I saw them in action for the first time last winter, cruising the tarmac of Funchal airport in Madeira. The personnel used the small vehicle to maneuver between aircraft; and they had solar panels on their roofs – neat. That’s all fine and far away from other traffic and with hardly any coverage needed… but what about in real life?

I left my antique electric GWiz parked for a week to see how the new generation version would fit into my life. Soon I will have to give up my beloved “roller” because it is falling apart little by little. Call me Pollyanna, but it’s been a brilliant mode of transport all these years, so I have no complaints, I’m proud of it.

Lisa remains loyal to her faithful G-WizLisa remains loyal to her faithful G-Wiz

After 15 years, Lisa remains loyal to her faithful G-Wiz: Andrew Crowley

When I wrote about transporting my children in it, I received comments stating that I was an unfit mother for endangering them by riding in such a flimsy vehicle. And yet here we are all, still very much alive. I have never been in a serious collision – I know the consequences and drive accordingly; an approach that many more of us could use, regardless of the size and weight of our car.

I’ve described the Citroen Ami as an “ultra-compact city vehicle” which, let’s face it, is sexier than “electric four-wheeler” (it’s the actual description). I’ve never been car proud, but it takes some getting used to. You will see from these photos that it is a curious cube (2.4 meters long, 1.4 meters wide and 1.5 meters high) and looks the same from both ends and sides. Unlike my GWiz, which tries to emulate real cars with upholstered seats, a rear-view mirror and a modest ‘trunk’ (in this case, where the engine usually sits), the Ami revels in its utilitarianism. It’s like being in a Lego brick: all hard surfaces and with strange plastic “storage solutions”.

This makes it a driving experience that takes some getting used to. I sit smack dab in the middle of the cube, equidistant from front and back, so the windshield is out of reach (and has no rearview mirror). The driver’s seat is on the left, with a single passenger seat on the right and slightly back, giving me strong Uber driver vibes. Maybe that would be useful if there is a growing demand for solo taxi lifts?

The driver’s door used to be called a suicide door because it is hinged and opens to the rear. On the Ami, a budget option is that both outputs are hinged on the right side (if any part becomes damaged, only one version needs to be replaced, reducing costs). I’m quickly getting used to being extra vigilant when opening the door!

Due to the lack of a rearview mirror (apparently deemed unnecessary due to the Ami’s small size) I rely heavily on the door-mounted mirrors, but they are small, smaller than my vanity compact. That means I’m on high alert the entire time I drive, but maybe that’s not a bad thing (we all know distracted drivers can be deadly). In fact, there Are no distractions – unless you configure the Ami with add-ons to play music. There’s none of the dash-mounted touchscreen the size of a professional laptop you’ll find in most recent cars.

Lisa Markwell and the Citroen AmiLisa Markwell and the Citroen Ami

Lisa found herself leaning heavily on the mounted door mirrors – Paul Grover

As we drove around with my husband, we found ourselves reaching for our sunglasses, such is the sheer amount of window glass. The almost completely transparent roof can, when the sun shines brightly, make it very blinding and difficult to read the digital speedometer – which, by the way, is clear and useful (any electric vehicle driver knows how to keep an eye on the amount of battery charge remaining ).

But focusing on the battery for a moment – ​​with a range of 45 miles and city center speed limits – I can drive for days without any ‘range anxiety’. It’s certainly a nifty little beast, so hitting 20mph is sometimes alarmingly easy, but I still have to spend almost an entire week commuting and going to the shops before looking for an outlet on the street.

Even if I lived in a town like the one in Wiltshire where my sister lives, I could still go to the retail park miles away and come back without any stress – and at home I would have a driveway to park. and just charge. Worth thinking about.

Another reason for getting along well with this bit of utility driving is my fellow road users. Sitting slightly closer to the curb thanks to the pan-European riding position, I’m more aware of cyclists and – thanks to the Ami’s minuscule size – I can give them a wide berth without crashing into oncoming traffic.

‘The driver’s seat is on the left, with a single passenger seat on the right and slightly back, giving me strong Uber driver vibes’ – Paul Grover

You might grit your teeth at the idea of ​​giving space to the Lycra-clad warriors on two wheels, but in any conurbation we should all get along, and if possible without incident. At the very least, I don’t want to tap anything, because then those little wing mirrors fall apart and if you want to move them you have to fold up the very analog windows, which themselves are a bit, um, flimsy. They are a nod to the source of inspiration, the famously quirky Citroen 2CV.

Can I be picky while driving something that – if it has a lifespan as long as my GWiz – would cost an outlay of £500 a year (excluding insurance and maintenance)? If so, little details like the indicator not clicking when you complete a turn drive me a little crazy. And while I love the neon yellow nylon pull tabs to open the doors, they require quite a tug. I’m used to being able to stash away anything I don’t want stolen in a hidden storage area; the Ami doesn’t have that feature, but that said, there’s certainly plenty of room in the passenger-side footwell for shopping – it handled my weekly shopping with ease.

Being a long-time veteran of driving a vehicle that is largely seen as a curiosity, even an annoyance, I’m used to pointing fingers, outright laughter and the occasional request for more information about “that thing you drive”, but I didn’t notice any of that with the Ami, despite it still being a relatively rare sighting in our cities.

The Citroen Ami: turns on a dime and fits sideways into any bayThe Citroen Ami: turns on a dime and fits sideways into any bay

The Citroen Ami: turns on a dime and fits sideways into any bay – Paul Grover

Is it because in the age of countless e-scooters, motorcycles with canopies, three-wheeled cars with open sides and, thank God, what else, this battery-powered Beetle isn’t that remarkable? I hope so. I’ll definitely consider the Ami, sooner or later. As long as I’m a city dweller, this is for me. Maybe you too? My now grown daughter needs to learn to drive and I think it’s a brilliant transport solution that is economical in every way – no parking panic if it costs a penny and fits sideways into any bay.

As Citroen itself says in its Ami marketing information: “Just as the original 2CV mobilized the masses of the past, Ami brings electric mobility to the masses of today.” The masses may be pulling it off a bit, even if this is the talk of the urban EV enthusiasts.

I would like nothing more than to live in a city where it is almost silent, where small vehicles drive around politely and share parking spaces and charging stations. But I suspect human nature won’t get everyone on board just yet.

The Ami costs from £8,495:

Leave a Comment