Citroën Celebrates 20 Years of Pioneering the Electric Automobile

Twenty years ago, in December 1993, Citroën started the production of the Citroën AX Electrique, the first larger-scale produced electric vehicle.  It was 100 percent electric-powered thereby: no emissions, no engine or exhaust noise.

The Citroen AX Electrique was equipped with a DC motor, the power being supplied from a battery. An electronic control unit registered , controlled and monitored the commands of the driver and the use of electrical energy. It also provided for charging the driving battery by the built-in charger and limited the vehicle’s performance when the power was about to decease or the temperature limits have been reached.  It had a range of fifty miles and achieved a top speed of 91km/h.


The AX Electrique had neither a manual gearbox nor a neutral position or a clutch. Driving the electric car was very similar to that of a vehicle with automatic transmission. Releasing the accelerator pedal turned the efficient engine and transmission automatically into a source of energy recuperation.

1993 AX Electrique-la-rochelle

A conventional 12-volt battery powered all the accessories of the AX Electrique.  It was fed from the main transmission battery via a “converter” which effectively served as an alternator.  The driving battery consisted of a group of blocks for the storage of electrical energy, which are placed in three containers.  These were nickel-cadmium (NiCd) batteries.  Between the motor and battery there was a safety device: a circuit breaker unit whose job it was to provide or disconnect the electrical connection between the motor and the drive battery.  The entire system had fuses and circuit breakers.

AX Electrique Dash

The traction battery, the electric motor and the electronic control unit integrated with the connection block were cooled by the air ventilation or by circulation of cooling fluid.

Steering, braking system and all other functions except the heating of the Citroën AX Electrique were derived from the conventional AX.  Since the electric motor in the Citroën AX Electrique was very efficient and produced little waste heat, the use of additional fuel-based heating was necessary to provide convenience for the cold days.

Citroën produced a total of 374 AX Electriques from December 1993 to 1996.

AX electrique

A Pioneer in the field of electric mobility

In 1989 Citroën demonstrated its first electric vehicles that were based on the C15 and C25 truck models.   The experience of practical operation of a few hundred copies of both models evolved into the development of the AX Electrique, introduced in 1993 as the next generation of electric cars.

The roadmap of electric vehicles continued in 1996 with the Citroën Saxo Electrique.  It was produced up until 2003 with a total of 2,174 units being built.

In 1997 Citroën introduced the  Berlingo Electrique with 1749 vehicles being built.

In 2010 with they introduced the 100 percent electric-powered Berlingo First Electric.

In December 2010, in co operation with Mitsubishi they introduced the Citroën C-Zero, an electric runabout that was a real car, perfect for urban and countryside use and could seat 4 adults.  It was their first large-series-produced electric vehicle.

The latest example of the evolution is Citroën’s Multicity Car Sharing in Berlin, Germany.  Started in August 2012 and is the first station-independent, purely electrical one-way car sharing program in Germany.  Over 6,000 customers have already registered for purely electric one-way car sharing.  As of today, 350 electric Citroën C-Zero cars are available in Berlin for customers.  For 2014, an expansion of the electric vehicle fleet to 500 Citroën C-Zeros is planned.   In addition, Citroën is examining the possibility of introducing the car sharing concept in other German cities.

In the coming year, an electric van especially conceived for tradesmen will be introduced: the Citroën Berlingo Electric, based on the latest generation of the Berlingo panel van

However successful Citroën’s electric car offering has been, it was the Citroën AX Electrique that positioned the company as a pioneer in electric mobility, paving the road to today and beyond…

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