May 4, 2009 The first all-electric family car went on sale in the United Kingdom over the weekend. Electric Car Corporation Plc(EEC) has launched a lithium ion battery-powered, all-electric version of the Citroen C1, called the C1 ev'ie. Unlike the previous largest selling electric vehicle in Britain – the Indian-built Reva G-Wiz, which was legally classed as a quadricycle – the C1 ev’ie is a proper car, albeit a mini car.

The Citroen C1 ev'ie is assembled in the UK from donor cars supplied with Citroen's blessing. The standard 1.0 liter 60 hp (50 Kw) petrol engine is replaced by a 30kw electric motor, powered by 25 li-ion batteries mounted in place of the fuel tank. The total pack capacity is not specified but with a range of 60 to 70 miles (96–112 km), battery capacity is estimated to be about 16 kilowatt-hours (kWh). ECC believes one of the keys to building a successful electric car is the battery management system (BMS). The company has developed what it describes as a sophisticated BMS, which – when coupled with regenerative braking – provides much greater range and longer battery life.

The C1 Evie applies light regenerative braking, as soon as you take your foot off the throttle, to generate the most electricity possible from the regenerative energy system. The standard 5-speed gearbox is retained but is modified to stay permanently in third gear. Reverse is taken care of by reversing the electric motor, as is the case with most electric vehicles.

A full charge takes six hours from a domestic 13 amp socket at a cost of about 90p (USD$1.34), which results in a fuel cost of less than 2p per mile. London is one of the most pro-electrical vehicle (EV) cities in the world, with more than 300 dedicated EV charging points already installed and plans to introduce more than 25,000. Other EV incentives include no road tax, no London congestion charge and free parking on top of the already significant fuel savings from running an electric vehicle.

The vehicle's top speed of 60 mph is just short of the speed limit on UK motorways, but it is more than enough for urban driving. The C1 EV, which is available in both 3 and 5-door versions, comes standard with the usual safety equipment, such as ABS, airbag, side impact door protection, crumple zones and mod cons like electric power steering and electric windows. If the price of £16,850 (USD$25,100) is too steep, ECC is also offering to rent or lease the vehicles.

Given unleaded fuel prices in the UK are about £1.00 per litre (USD$5.65 per US Gallon) – even with the petrol C1 getting 43 miles-per-gallon – it still costs about USD$0.13 a mile to run, compared to USD$0.02 for the C1 ev'ie. It seems clear that the premium retail cost of the C1 ev'ie over a standard £9495 (US $ 14,100) petrol-powered C1 may still make financial sense.

ECC expects to build 500 C1s over the next 12 months, with production volumes increasing to between 2,000 and 4,000 in 2010. The company has also done a deal to supply cars to UK hire company Green Motion.

Paul Evans

View gallery - 13 images