Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Lightning Survorlt Ready To Charge

 Citroen Survolt electric concept car, circuit Ecuyers, France.


LIKE a massive black insect, the Citroen Survolt sits menacingly on the Tarmac.

I flick three fighter jet-style switches to start up the electric motors and stamp on the right pedal.
In keeping with its appearance, it hovers before a stinging attack of acceleration rockets it to 60mph in just FIVE SECONDS. Never mind Survolt, this is thundervolt and lightning - and very, very frightening.
Unlike other silent plug-in cars it's excruciatingly loud.
As it darts from corner to corner it produces an uncomfortable high-pitched whine which rips into my eardrums like a mosquito trapped in a 1,000 watt speaker.
Amazingly, this Citroen is ready to make a big noise on UK roads. This might just be on a secret test track an hour outside Paris, but the Survolt really is coming to a showroom near you.
For all its sci-fi video game looks, it's very real. The 300bhp plug-in powertrain will hit a top speed of 162mph but thanks to electric power produces no emissions and no fuel costs.
Citroen say they will build the Survolt for a one-make racing series then put it into production as a top-of-the-range DS roadster due in late 2012.
It will undoubtedly be the most desirable Citroen ever. This is a firm known for its VFM not its OMG.
The carbon fibre bodywork of the Survolt is a work of art. Beautiful but at the same time sinister.
It has the essence of a mini Bugatti Veyron - its evil insect appearance is intoxicating. 
If this thing went near Gillian McKeith in I'm A Celeb, she'd have a heart attack.
You simply can't take your eyes off the potent mix and magnitude of slashes, bulges, mesh and chrome. The highlights are most definitely the spearhead chrome badge and grille, spacecraft rear lights and pure drama spoiler.
It makes the Batmobile look like an ordinary saloon car.
In fact it actually seems too incredible. Getting into the cockpit is like an Xbox fantasy, climbing into a TV video game and into another world.
But, while it oozes drama, it has no dignity.
Climbing aboard I felt like a spider trapped in a matchbox. My 6ft frame was far too big and was welded into the driver's seat.
The interior looks and feels more like a Meccano set.
Citroen Survolt
A-door-able ... Citroen Survolt is stunning
Nicolas Zwickel
It's laid out in a raw classic racing car fashion, with a digital gauge for tyre pressures, oil temperatures and speed, while there's a Formula One-style rectangular wheel with more functional buttons.
Once strapped into the three-point harness there's a good view out of the front screen, but poor rearward and side visibility. But who cares?
The screen on my right flashes all sorts of computerised info at me like the New York stock exchange - but the most important number on my mind is the £1.5MILLION it cost to build this car. Must keep my eyes on the road. It's effortless to drive. Just press a button on the steering wheel into 'D' and there's just two pedals like an automatic - accelerate and brake.
There is also so little space in the cabin that I need to brake with my left foot, because the steering wheel is actually wedged between my knees.
The pedal feels solid but slightly wooden, however just the meerest tap cuts the speed in an instant.
While I wasn't allowed to push it hard enough to get a real feel for the handling, it's an immense experience behind the wheel.
The Survolt is designed as a racing car, so it sits low to the ground, has loads of downforce-inducing wings and slats and has a proper roll-cage inside.
Citroen Survolt electric concept car, circuit Ecuyers, France.
Race relations ... Survolt has F1-style steering wheel
Citroen say it was built in just four months but that made its performance even more impressive. The turn-in was sharp, bodyroll non- existent, and the ride is firm but smooth. It really did feel like a properly set up racing car, hugging every bit of kerb and gravel.
Power comes from two massive water-cooled lithium-ion batteries - one in front of my feet, the other behind my head - that weigh 310lb each.
Together they make up a quarter of the Survolt's total mass and are positioned to enhance the car's balance.
The Survolt is ready to race now, the only issue is the relatively short life of the batteries. At full pelt you'd be out of juice in 20 minutes.
It takes eight hours to charge the batteries fully, or you can opt for a supercharge which partly replenishes them and takes one and a half hours.
Driving at low speeds, the batteries are good for two hours of driving, but significantly less if you're in a rush.
Bertrand Dantec, chief of the Survolt design project, admits it would be a dream to see the car in showrooms.
He said: "I have lived and breathed this car for five months and, of course, every designer wants to see their car built.
Citroen Survolt electric concept car, circuit Ecuyers, France.
Work of art ... Survolt body is made from carbon fibre
"But this is very real. The technology in the car is not fantasy, it is all possible and will be used when it is built for competition racing.
"It does not use the same set-up as the C-Zero electric car, the Survolt remains a laboratory car to see what we can achieve.
"But it will be developed further once it is built for racing. It's very possible that after the racing car is built that we will look at a production version, which would be very exciting."
The French firms seem to be locked in a electric supercar battle with Renault's equally-striking DeZir, which we drove exclusively earlier this month, and Peugeot's EX1.
But this Citroen insect is ready to create the biggest buzz. 


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