Put it on my charge...

We hear a lot about electric vehicles but most are impractical or never actually offered for sale.

Wednesday, 12th January 2011, 12:37 pm

The Citroen C-ZERO is a reality, offering zero emissions, a six-hour plug-in recharge time and a range of up to 80 miles. It’s expensive but many urban businesses and local authorities will not be deterred by the asking price.

Driving an electric vehicle always slightly confounds your expectations.

For a start they disappoint because the child in me expects them to make milk float sound effects. They don’t. They make no noise whatsoever, which in itself can be a bit of a menace to dozy pedestrians.

The C-ZERO’s permanent magnet synchronous motor is powered by a lithium-ion battery system and develops 64bhp from 3,000 to 6,000rpm.

The real clincher is a maximum torque figure of 180Nm that’s available instantly from 0 to 2000rpm which gives the little Citroen a surprising amount of verve as it steps off the mark.

The batteries can be charged either by plugging the supply cord into a household 240-volt socket or, alternatively, by using an industrial 400-volt supply for an 80 percent charge in 30 minutes. The C-ZERO uses a simpler transmission than its Mitsubishi cousin.

Through the first portion of throttle travel the C-ZERO is in Eco mode – give it a firmer prod and it surrenders the remaining power.

On the road, the C-ZERO is good for 80mph all out, accelerates from 0-62mph in 15 seconds and has a range of around 80 miles over the standard combined cycle.

The C-ZERO’s nine-metre turning circle and alert handling also make it easy to navigate through city traffic.

Parking is simpler than in any other vehicle I can think of thanks to its narrowness and the fact that the front wheels are further forwards than the bonnet, making it easy to edge into the meanest parking bay. At just 3475mm long, it’s dwarfed by a Citroen C1 city car.

Aside from the fact that you’re very aware that there’s not a lot of metal in front of your seating position, the interior of the C-ZERO feels fairly conventional, if somewhat narrow.

Two big blokes might rub shoulders in one but it offers more space than you might expect for such a short vehicle.

This is because the propulsion system is very compact and the underfloor batteries don’t impinge too much on cabin space.

There’s actually more space in the back of the C-ZERO than in most city cars and you get five doors as well.

Don’t count on carrying much baggage as the boot is tiny with the rear seats in place.

The 80 mile range tends to introduce a bit of ‘range anxiety’ when driving it but as long as you’re not too heavy with the throttle, it’ll manage most commutes with ease.

What’s tougher to justify at the moment is the asking price which, sadly, puts the C-ZERO beyond the budget of most retail customers. Still, if you work for an environmentally-conscious business, cars like the C-ZERO might soon be ousting the BMWs in the company car park.