Drivers in rural France test very light electric vehicles for free

The project aims to give carmakers information on how these small electric vehicles could be used outside urban areas

(Clockwise from left) Citroën Ami; Midipile electric quad with inventor Benoît Trouvé; Birò made by Italian firm Estrima
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Very light electric vehicles are being tested to see how they might benefit rural residents.

These véhicules intermédiaires have an empty weight limit of 425kg, a motor of 6kw maximum, top speed of 45kph and, in most cases, space for only two.

Cédric Sous, of the state eco-agency Ademe in south-west France, said the project – named Extrême Défi – aims to encourage carmakers to produce small electric vehicles instead of less efficient large heavy ones.

It wants to show that there is a place for them.

Read more: 2, 3, or 4 per parking space?: Tiny electric car now on sale in France

Residents can test the vehicles for free

Ten vehicles, from electric-powered tricycles through to the Citroën Ami – an electric ‘licence-free car’ – were rented from makers, then handed to local councils in 13 areas that then selected testers.

The testers can use them for up to six months for free in exchange for recording their experiences.

Mr Sous said: “Many small electric cars have been designed with an urban environment in mind but, as with other electric cars, it seems they have more uptake in rural areas, where people have space to charge them.

“We want to get evidence of how they might be used.”

Read more: Citroën to sell 1,000 more tiny cars some can drive without a licence

Electric bike can carry six children to school

Millau in Averyon is one participating town, with volunteers using Birò cars, made by Italian firm Estrima, which cost €13,176, or €10,776 for a model without doors.

“We’re looking at high technology vehicles that are designed to be robust, easy to fix and comfortable to use,” said Mr Sous.

“Another example is the vélo-bus, an electric bicycle with a body, which can carry six children, designed as an alternative to a school bus.”

Tests with one of these are due to start in Tressin, in Nord, this month.

Council testing light vehicles to replace vans

Both of France’s major carmakers have tried to enter the market, with the €8,800 Citroën Ami now judged a success – but Renault’s Twizy never took off and has been withdrawn.

As well as passenger vehicles, the project is testing some for council use as vans.

The Midipile electric quad, designed near Angoulême, is not in the first round of tests as most are taking place in the centre and north.

It might be used for a second wave, which is likely to include departments such as Corréze, closer to the factory.

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