Analysis: Citroen explores mobility future

Citroen used its home city of Paris earlier this month to show off part two of its electric mobility future vision with a concept car named to commemorate its centenary.

The 19_19 concept (bottom of page) was unveiled at the VivaTech 2019 technology show, and the brand has chosen its 100th year to “show our vision in terms of electric mobility”, said Citroen’s marketing and communications director Arnoud Belloni.

Bolt of electricity

Three-time Olympic 100-metre champion Usain Bolt appeared on stage at VivaTech 2019 to help promote the Bolt electric scooter company he co-founded, and the Jamaican sprinter wheeled out a surprise with the unveiling of the Bolt Nano electric car.Bolt Electric Scooters and CarThe Nano, due in 2020 with a 180-mile range, is claimed to be world’s smallest electric car. It takes two people, one in front of the other, and the company claims four cars will fit in a conventional space.

Orders are being taken via www.micromobility.com for the battery-swappable car that the company claims will fit through a doorway.

“If you want travel from zero to two miles you take a scooter, and if you want to go from two to 10 miles you take a Nano,” said a company spokesman.

Talking about his moves to try and lift use of electric scooters in urban areas, Bolt said: “For me, fewer cars on the road is going to be better for the environment, and going to London and getting on a scooter to get around is a no-brainer and will solve a lot of problems.”

There are currently some legislative issues around the use of electric scooters on pavements or roads, but the company is looking to help solve that using geofencing technology to prevent the two-wheelers working in areas such as parks. The scooters would slow down safely to a stop when entering certain GPS-defined zones of a city.

Having shown the Ami One urban car share EV concept at March’s Geneva motor show, the other half of the brand’s future vision is an escape route for the weekends from the cities that a UN report predicts that two-thirds of the world’s population will live in by 2030.

“They will want to escape the cities; you need an 800km (497-mile) electric range, highly comfortable, but with the ability to be driven on demand by artificial intelligence – disrupting but not betraying the art of the voyage,” Belloni said, also predicting the rise of flexible leasing. For many years companies have predicted the ability to offer different cars for different circumstances over the course of a finance plan, and increasingly complex technology is bringing that closer to reality.

“A new generation of cars will promote downsizing, so you will drive an Ami One every day, and in the future finance concept you will have four, five, six weekends in a seven-seat car or a saloon,” said Belloni, accusing businesses of giving drivers cars that are much bigger than they require for vanity reasons.

He said: “Companies are always buying cars that are too big for their employees to satisfy the egos of people. You can say to an entrepreneur that you can put all your staff in a C3 electric – which will exist – and for four weekends they can have a SpaceTourer, an SUV, a light commercial vehicle or a sedan.

“We need to just make life easier, and the good thing is that technology powers it,” he continued, likening the concept to pay TV, where the consumer builds a package around which channels they want to receive.

But Belloni doesn’t expect automation to arrive as quickly as electrification and mobility alternatives, predicting that anything beyond level three – where the car assists the driver but doesn’t take responsibility for the vehicle – is not possible in the near future, although it will likely first arrive in last-mile deliveries from businesses.

That was backed up by Citroen’s global chief executive Linda Jackson, who said: “We are showcasing a move towards autonomous vehicles; we will not be fully autonomous by 2025 but will have additional autonomous features that make our lives safer.

“Technology has to be about improving safety, improving our lives and making our lives easier. Mobility is a freedom so we need to protect it.”

The brand will be making its first steps into electrification next year, with the plug-in hybrid C5 Aircross confirmed for the early part of 2020, and a full electric version of the C4 Cactus replacement coming alongside petrol and diesel alternatives, with more vehicles to follow.

“As a manufacturer we have to adapt and invest in electric,” says Jackson. “No manufacturer can not have an electric car in the future because society is moving us that way. We have no choice.”

Paul Barker