You hardly see them on the road. Yet there is a future for the Citroën 2CV, if you make it electric. And then he can go a lot harder than he used to.
The 2CV6 Spécial E, or the electric duck. Photo Niels Blekemolen
The Duck driver knows what fate awaits him on the highway after he has managed to squeeze himself into the trucks. With a top of 110, if he already achieves that, he is sentenced to court. My silver-gray test Duck, on the other hand, is what no Duck ever did. To catch up. And how. He effortlessly inserts and moves just as easily to the left, where he keeps track of the lease armada.
It is therefore an electrical one. In the front the charming, noisy two-cylinder has made way for the electric motor from a Nissan Leaf and in the back, professionally concealed under the floor of the luggage compartment, is a package of used Tesla batteries. He steers and brakes well, the rest on board is spectacular compared to regular Ducks. And you drive away with it. The illustrious hand poker and the clutch pedal have disappeared. You press the power pedal and you drive, reverse gear with a button on the dashboard.
The Citroën 2CV ( deux chevaux ) was a popular car for years. During the production time (1949-1990), a total of more than five million copies were made of the (Ugly) Duck, as it was often called in the Netherlands.
Ruben Stern, who built his first electric Duck in 2011 for his own use, still has some wishes left. He finds the pedal response to be improved, and plays with the idea of equipping the now relatively heavy steering Duck with power steering. The main thing is: it is already very good and can only get better. The RDW was more than satisfied with the inspection, he says. "This Duck has almost the same radius as my first, is about 50 kilos lighter, can now charge quickly, and is completely built with recycled components of industrial quality."
Stern's sparring partner, 2CV garage mechanic Sander Aalderink, now drives the Électrique himself and is so beautiful to steal, with his striking silver-gray paint and leather trim. A showcar, and that was exactly the intention. "I wanted a demo car that would be representative of what we do and can do," says Aalderink. "We have already been able to convince a few people with that. We initially considered building all of them like this, so in silver gray, modern and yet authentic - a bit like VanMoof's bikes. But we thought that was a bit too pretentious. ”Do you prefer it in red, good too. "We want to be able to tailor it for customers."
"You miss the grumbling Duck sound of that two-cylinder, but the silence and the supple weight more than offset it."
In appearance, the Électrique does not distinguish itself from a normal Duck, apart from the indication '2CV6 Special E' on the trunk. Although that detail also appears to be purely Citroën. In France, the Duck was supplied for a short time with a centrifugal clutch that made it possible to drive away without coupling. The nameplate, in which the added E stood for ' Embrayage Centrifugal ', was able to easily catch duck specialist Aalderink from his spare parts stock.
150 is fun, but not essential
The range is 120 km on the modest side. Thanks to the fast charger, you can simply go to FastNed stations, and the modest battery capacity of 16 kWh means you don't have to wait long. That way you could get to Amsterdam-Groningen with one charge stop. Provided you do not go too fast, because consumption increases above 100 due to the troubled streamline. On the other hand: you never did tear with a Duck.
Stern has reduced the power of the Nissan engine from the original 109 to 70-75 hp. More would be a bit too furry for a car that had to be at the height of its power with 29 hp in its two-cylinder years. That he now reaches 150 is nice, but not the main thing. The aim was to make a enthusiastic car more sustainable with certain uncertain prospects. Due to the advancing environmental zones, the old-timer in urban areas will increasingly face a closed door. And then it's over and over with the mobile romance trade.
Photos Niels Blekemolen
No wonder the market for electrified classics is growing. That is also why 2CV specialist Aalderink quickly abandoned its reserves when Stern came to present his first electric Duck seven years ago. There was the car that could survive the current era. Equally important: he drove well. "I was enchanted. You miss the grumbling Duck sound of that two-cylinder engine, but the silence and the supple weight more than compensate for that. ”
He and Stern have been working under the same roof ever since, since last year in a new building that, with its huge workplaces and storage spaces, looks more like a factory than a garage. They are a bit like that now that they can actually make the RDW car. Stern works on the technology shop-in-shop, while Aalderink takes care of the marketing, which in this case required further consideration.
What does something like that cost?
What can an electric Duck cost? How do you make it commercially interesting?
It seems like an unimportant question. For a perfectly preserved Duck or an Aalderink restored, enthusiasts will be in the pocket. Amounts to thirty thousand occur. But then you have the original that the electric is not, with all conceivable consequences for the attraction of the real, built on nostalgia. The conversion should also pay off for existing Duck drivers. Aalderink: “Rubens first Duck with all new components came to a mille or 30 in conversion costs. That seemed commercially unfeasible to me. The aim was to get that amount below twenty. "
We succeeded. Then you have to make inventive purchases, he says. "That is why we looked carefully at whether we could use used components. Fortunately, that market has grown enormously since Rubens first Duck. Then you had to use new batteries because there was nothing else. In the meantime, electric cars also sometimes hit a tree, so more and more material is on sale. ”
Ruben Stern (left) and Sander Aalderink in their electric Duck, the '2CV6 Spécial E'. Photo Niels Blekemolen
Stern: “For this Duck we use the battery package developed by Tesla for the first generation of electric Smart, the Car2Go cars. Mercedes has deployed Car2Go fleets everywhere. Even in an American city where the charging infrastructure turned out to be so limited that the cars stranded everywhere with empty batteries. They cleaned up that fleet in one go and replaced it with gasoline Smarts. For various reasons the electric Smartjes were no longer allowed to be sold, so they were dismantled and sold in parts to idiots like me. For example, I now have a portion of battery packs that I can use to get ahead."
Meanwhile, they circle like vultures above the market in search of new loot. That's how they also got their Leaf engines. "In Norway, where many Leafs are driving, there is a dismantling company for electric cars. The nice thing is that there is no replacement market for those engines, because they don't break. So they are just fine, and for a relatively low amount you get a perfectly functioning engine there. "
In short: the Duck, launched in 1949, has a future again. "Though it would be great if we could lower the conversion costs below ten thousand," says Stern. "Because then everyone will do it."