Coming to America: How Does an 8-HP French Rental Car Sound?
Soon, you’ll be able to rent the truly strange and very French Citroën Ami in Washington D.C. and Portland, Oregon.
We've talked about the return to les États Unis of French automaker PSA, the purveyors of Peugeot, Citroën, and ex-GM divisions Opel and Vauxhall. Hey, that's cool—we're eager to try some of those funky Frenchmobiles, like the slick Peugeot 508 SW Sport Engineered wagon or the far-out Citroën C4. Turns out the first French car to return to these shores is something a little smaller. And a lot slower. And way more French.
Last week, a LinkedIn post from PSA-owned car-sharing service Free2Move USA showed a silhouette of what is clearly a Citroën Ami, with the caption "From France With Love." A spokesperson for Free2Move has confirmed to Automobile that the Ami is indeed coming to their U.S. fleets for a six-month-or-so trial. Free2Move operates in two cities in the U.S., and the Ami will come to both—first Washington, D.C., then Portland, Oregon.
The LinkedIn headline—"Something big is coming to Washington DC!"—is a wry joke, because the Ami is anything but big. It's actually a two-seat battery-powered box-on-wheels with an 8-hp motor. No, that is not a typo—eight, as in the number of actual horses one can fit in a reasonably-sized living room. The Ami's top speed is 28 mph, and its 5.5 kWh battery provides a range of just under 45 miles.
The Citroën Ami is what we might think of as a neighborhood electric vehicle (remember those?). In its home country of France, the Ami is classified as a voiture sans permis—"vehicle without license." Basically, if you're 14 or older, and/or have had your license revoked or suspended or never bothered to get one in the first place, you can drive microcars like the Ami in France. Because France. (The rest of Europe calls these cars "light quadracycles".)
Why would anyone want to rent a tiny little box-on-wheels that can't quite manage the city speed limit? Because it's so stinkin' cute! The Ami is named for perhaps one of the French-est of French cars, the adorably ugly Ami 6 of 1961, though there's only an abstract visual resemblance. Actually, the Ami's wide-eyed, box-on-wheels styling makes it look like the love child of a Renault 8 and a Zagato Elcar (both of which were sold in the States, by the way).
Also, the Ami is perfect for D.C.—anyone who has ever been stuck in one of that city's infamous daily traffic jams will tell you that 28 mph is an unobtainable velocity. This adorable little box seems like a great way to cruise the capital and take in the sights. Portlanders might be a little less patient with the Ami's slow pace, but at least it shows a commitment to keeping it weird.
How much will it cost to cruise around in an Ami? Free2Move wasn't ready to say, but we know it rents the Ami in Europe for around $19 per hour. The Ami is also offered on a 48-month lease with monthly payments of about $24. We'll find out soon enough—these boîtes miniatures should arrive in D.C. in the next few weeks, and Portland shortly thereafter.