There have been a few attempts over the years to rip out the venerable internal combustion engine heart of a DS and install an electric motor in its place. Early efforts to power it relied on the installing banks of lead acid batteries, a solution that proved viable in the DS over virtually any other car at the time. Though range was limited, its hydraulic suspension could tolerate the dramatically increased weight and still provide an extremely comfortable ride.
One such attempt over 30 years ago was made in Edmonton, Alberta in the 1990s by Mike Hoskinson on 1970 ID19. (We wrote about it in our Citroënthusiast publication back in the summer of 2006.)
Sixteen US batteries (model US250-HC) weighing 1280 pounds were loaded in the car. Mike used a Kostov Sepex, motor modified by Canadian Electric Vehicles. A Zapi SEM-3 Sepex controller provided the ability to flow current generated by the motor during braking back into the batteries. The drivetrain remained the four-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive,. Inside, volt and ammeters showed the system’s status.
The 96-volt system has enough power to keep two 1500-watt ceramic heaters glowing. The Citroën Hydraulics were powered by a separate small motor, controlled by a pressure switch and separate contactor. The hydraulic suspension used very little power once it is powered up.
Three years and $30,000 later, the transformation was complete. Acceleration, while not quick, ultimately got the ID to a top speed of 110 kph (70 mph). The driving range was 60 km (35 mi).
As newer battery technology, efficient engines and means of charging continue to develop, more power provision has come to market for DS owners to convert their cars into EVs. One such vehicle was on display at the 2016 ICCCR held at Middachten castle in De Steeg, the Netherlands.
You can these videos documenting its conversion here:
Then there is this video from Australia showing an electronic DS conversion, with a rather annoying and overbearing host that constantly chatters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYpWHMBswUs
One of the latest efforts is this slick conversion done by Electrogenic and recently featured in carandclassic.co.uk. They have fitted a 48.5kWh battery pack, offering a real-world range of approximately 140 miles on each charge. The car is fitted with a 29kW charger, which will charge the batteries in around two hours. They offer an optional ‘range extender’ battery that extends the range to over 200 miles, pretty much all you need for a day outing in a classic DS. View a video of the Electrogenic conversion here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyyHqhAeuF4
For those of us hoping to keep our DS running long into the future, it would appear that the quickly evolving EV technology makes it and all classic hydraulic Citroëns (CX, GS, and SM) great candidates for such conversions though the originality and essence of the model is long gone along with the gas.