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France’s budget electric vehicle looks like a toaster and is sold like one, too

John Laurenson Jul 21, 2021
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The new all-electric urban vehicle named 'Ami' by French carmaker Citroen is taken for a test drive for the purposes of a photo illustration in the Place le la Concorde on 23 September 2020, in Paris, France. Citroen's Ami falls into the quadricycle category, and can be driven without a license in France from the age of 14. Photo by Abdulmonam Eassa/Getty Images

France’s budget electric vehicle looks like a toaster and is sold like one, too

John Laurenson Jul 21, 2021
Heard on:
The new all-electric urban vehicle named 'Ami' by French carmaker Citroen is taken for a test drive for the purposes of a photo illustration in the Place le la Concorde on 23 September 2020, in Paris, France. Citroen's Ami falls into the quadricycle category, and can be driven without a license in France from the age of 14. Photo by Abdulmonam Eassa/Getty Images
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Gersende Gloanec, 15, drives to school in the neighboring town of Fouesnant every day with her little sister. 

What emerges from the garage is a small gray two-seater blob that automaker Citroën doesn’t even call a car but a “mobility object.” With a maximum speed 28 mph, the Ami or “friend” is actually classed as a quadricycle. Think four-wheel moped. No driver’s license required.

“I’m too young to have a driving license, but you can drive an Ami from the age of 14,” she said.

Gersende Gloanec drives a Citroën Ami to school. (Photo by John Laurenson)

“At the beginning it was strange to be out on the roads like this because I’d only ridden a bike before but it gives me more independence,” Gloanec said.

As the Ami’s publicity puts it: “Yes, it looks like a toaster. Which is why you can buy it at the electrical goods store.” Citroën is not selling it in the usual dealerships at all, in fact, only in electrical goods stores and online.

The cost: just over $8,000 minus a thousand-buck government eco-bonus — cheaper than a normal car.

European carmakers have had some success in recent years making new versions of little cars that were big in the ’60s: the Mini, the Fiat 500, the Volkswagen Beetle. Now the French have brought out a modern-day reworking of its iconic budget car, the 2CV. It’s an electric vehicle.

The French have a tradition of building low-end cars, like Citroën’s 2CV that it manufactured from 1948 to 1990. It’s the inspiration for the new Ami.

Amateur mechanic Christophe Dupuis, who lives in Hermeray in the Paris region, rebuilds 2CVs in his spare time. He owns a 1961 Ami (two in fact), because Citroën has used this name before for a version of the 2CV.    

“It really was a car for people who were not very well off,” he said. “Today’s Ami is designed to give people access to electric cars.”

Citroën is launching the Ami in Italy, Spain, Germany and Belgium this summer with the United States to follow — maybe — later.

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