After World War II, French automaker Citroën launched cheap and simple cars to gets its home country moving again. Citroën is now applying that same philosophy to electric cars with the launch of a small two-seat EV that drivers can rent for the equivalent of $22 a month.
The car is called the Ami, a name borrowed from a cheap and cheerful Citroën model of days past. Like the original Ami, this new electric version is pretty basic. Citroën made the front and rear bumpers identical (likely to keep costs down) while the doors are rear-hinged (like on a Rolls-Royce Dawn) to make interior access easier. The Ami has a top speed of 28 mph, and a 5.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack that provides 43 miles of range (as measured on the European testing cycle). A full recharge from the 220-volt home outlets typical in Europe takes 3 hours, according to Citroën.
The clever thing about the Ami is how it’s being positioned in the market and distributed. The vehicle’s tiny dimensions (great for getting through tight European city streets) and low top speed mean it isn’t considered a car under European regulations. Technically, it’s a “quadricycle,” according to Citroën. That means it can be driven without a license, by people as young as 14 in France and 16 in other European countries, according to the automaker.
Citroën will offer the Ami as a long-term rental for an initial payment of 2,644 euros ($2,907 U.S.), and 19.99 euros ($21.98) a month after that. The Ami will also be available through Free2Move, the carsharing service operated by Citroën parent PSA Group. Buyers can also purchase an Ami outright for 6,000 euros($6,598).
Order books for the Ami will open March 30 in France, followed a few months later by Spain, Italy, Belgium, Portugal, and Germany, Citroën said. The car is unlikely to be offered in the United States, however.
Citroën’s parent company is merging with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, but that won’t unleash a flood of French cars in the U.S. The only PSA Group brand slated to return to the U.S. is Peugeot. The Free2Move carsharing service does currently operate in Washington, D.C., but it uses cars from other automakers.
The Ami itself also likely wouldn’t meet U.S. crash-safety standards, although it could be classified as a neighborhood electric vehicle with use restricted to areas like gated communities or college campuses.
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