Chameau électrique

Jacques pressed the accelerator of the little plastic-bodied Citroën to the floor. The vehicle shot forward with a clattering roar, its 602 cc two-cylinder petrol engine straining under the weight of his clients. They had insisted on visiting the cliffs near the end of beach before sunset, and Jacques had the only vehicle in the village capable of making the trip. The sand was firm, his patrons were paying cash, but unfortunately his patience was growing thin. “Mon Dieu!” he thought. Why was his the only Méhari available for hire?

Or so the story might have been told in the opening pages of a novella about Jacques Bodard and His Trusty Citroën Méhari. Refreshing beverages included, no extra charge.

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According to Wikipedia, a “méhari is a type of fast-running dromedary camel.” It is also the name Citroën gave to a plastic-bodied off-road vehicle the French automobile company manufactured from 1968—1988. Older French cars, in general, appeal to me due to their quirkiness of design – Méhari included. So a few months ago, when I first heard that this seemingly Wehrmacht-inspired off-road machine made of ABS plastic was being reborn in an all-electric form, I had to go looking.

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At first I found it in the periphery press, then via a less-than-prominent link on Citroën’s website. But that’s all changed since Geneva, and the official unveiling of the new CITROËN E-MEHARI at the world-famous Motor Show. The electric camel is here.

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Were Jacques1 still around, he would be able to accelerate en silence at speeds up to 68 mph, thanks to the electric drive powered by a 30-kWh lithium metal polymer battery – battery technology based on the expertise of France’s Bolloré Group. How far could Jacques go? Depending upon his driving habits and terrain, up to 124 miles. Mais non, the new E-Méhari does not deliver the ground-breaking performance. But it certainly turns heads in the SO FUN THAT I WANT ONE department.

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If you’re familiar with the Bolloré BLUESUMMER, at certain angles the E-Méhari might give you deja vu all over again, but that’s understandable – Bolloré and Citroen are in cahoots, and PSA/Peugeot-Citroen will build the Bluesummer convertible electric car (below) at its factory in Rennes, western France – you guessed it – the same factory building the E-Méhari. Speaking of France, you’ll have to live there in order to buy the E-Méhari when it rolls off the production line – they won’t be available elsewhere for a while. With no distribution or dealers in the USA, that might be a very long while for les Américains qui aiment les petites voitures françaises.

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Apparently, some of the original gas-fired Méharis imported to the U.S. back in 1969-1970 made their way to Hawaii and were used as rental vehicles by Budget. I’m hoping that the new electric version, corrosion-free and sporting a waterproof interior (designed to be “hosed all over, both inside and out”), will eventually find its way to the islands as well. I don’t know about you, but thanks to this outdoorsy little EV, I think it’s time once again to say “Aloha, Citroën!” menu

1. [As it turns out, Jacques was a bit of show-off in his Méhari, and was last seen cresting a hill at excessive speed before disappearing forever. Some suspect foul play.]↩
[BLUESUMMER photo by Birdog21. Other photos by Citroën and L’argus]




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If you like the idea of driving an E-Méhari in Hawaii, check out EVs in Paradise.

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