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Citroen Ami

The Ami Wants to Be Your Friend in the City

In 2019, Citroën caused a stir at the Geneva Motor Show with its Ami mobility cube. Now the electric city speedster is going into mass production. The French want nothing less than to reform individual traffic in the inner city.

Citroën mobilized French families in the 1960s with the Ami, which was both practical and affordable. More than a million customers made the midsize car available as a sedan and station wagon, the best-selling car at the time. 

Citroën Ami 6

A good six decades later, the French automaker is now preparing to offer an affordable mobility solution. The name has remained the same, but unlike its predecessor, the new Ami is aimed exclusively at city dwellers.

Citroën’s Ami 2020

The cube-shaped mini-mobile is purely electric and only travels a good 70 kilometers.

This means that the production model introduced now falls short of the promises of the show car Ami One Concept. In 2019, Citroën first presented its idea for a city vehicle in a concept car at the Geneva Motor Show. 

However, the missing 30 kilometers alone will not decide the car’s fate; after all, 70 kilometers in the city is a relatively long distance. 

And because the small lithium-ion battery only has a capacity of 5.5-kilowatt hours, it can be fully charged again in just three hours, even from a household socket.  

Citroën has adopted the box design, which takes some getting used to, almost one-to-one from the concept car. The car looks relatively identical from the front and rear and, like the study, is reminiscent of a Lego car. 

Funny: Driver and passenger doors are identical. On the left, the door is hinged at the back, on the right at the front; Citroën wants to reduce costs with identical parts like these. The Ami has also retained its compact dimensions. The designers’ philosophy: a city car should take up as little space on the road as possible. 

Ami’s interior design

They have succeeded in doing so; at 2.41 meters in length, the two-seater undercuts even the first smart generation. Nevertheless, even two tall passengers sit surprisingly comfortably. The width is also absolutely suitable for big cities: the gnom measures just 1.39 meters (without exterior mirrors) and can thus easily wind its way through parked alleys. A further plus: the compact dimensions, together with small 14-inch wheels, ensure a tiny turning radius of 7.20 meters.

There is a little storage space on the dashboard and behind the seats, but there is not much room for comfort in the mobility cube: the passenger seat offers no adjustment options whatsoever, just like the duck, there are only folding windows, no infotainment system, manually adjustable exterior mirrors and plenty of hard plastic. 

But nobody will really be bothered by it on the way from the Eiffel Tower to Montmartre or from the Brandenburg Gate to Alexanderplatz. It might be more difficult for some people to do without the top speed: The Ami, which is powered by a 5 kW/7 PS electric motor, runs at a maximum speed of 45 km/h. That is enough in the traffic jam-stricken metropolises during the day. 

The strict speed limit, however, is a clever move by Citroën: in Germany, for example, the little dwarf is already allowed to be driven at the age of 16 with a scooter driving license; in his home country, even 14-year-olds are allowed to go on tour with it. 

The French are positioning themselves less as competitors to cars and more to mopeds and other two-wheelers – with a roof over their heads, a crash zone, and better transport possibilities. 

Citroën also wants to make access to the Ami as easy as possible: In France, it should be possible to lease the electric car for just under 20 euros a month, and anyone who wants to buy the little speedster can do so for only 6,900 euros. This also makes it interesting for companies that could use a few Amis as pool vehicles for their employees. In addition, the car manufacturer is integrating the car into its car-sharing service Free2Move, where it can be rented at the minute price of 26 cents. 

In addition to the classic Citroën dealerships, the Ami will also be available for purchase online.

One question remains, of course: Do you need a car to get to the supermarket, gym or city hall? No, many will say. Especially in cities, public transportation is relatively well developed. But there are just as many city dwellers who do not want to do without individual mobility. 

So the Ami might be just right for all those who don’t need a big car and certainly don’t need a status symbol.

Happy Hacking Keyboard: The new edition of the Japanese cult keyboard reviewed

The Happy Hacking Keyboard has long enjoyed cult status.

With its iconic, nearly symmetrical layout, the Happy Hacking Keyboard has gained many fans since its introduction in 1996. And this, despite the fact that the minimalistic HHKB keyboard was officially only available in Japan for a long time. 

happy hacking keyboard

A few years ago, the Fujitsu subsidiary PFU began offering the HHKB in Europe – eliminating the need for import. The same applies to the revised version of the keyboard, introduced at the beginning of 2020.

We tested the Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional Hybrid, the new Bluetooth version of the keyboard. The term “hybrid” in the product name refers to the fact that the keyboard can be connected to a computer either via Bluetooth or via a USB-C cable. 

The first Bluetooth version of the HHKB from 2016 could only be used via the radio standard. If you ran out of juice on the road, you were also out of luck. 

With the new hybrid version, you still have the plugin-in option, but no USB-C cable is included. From an environmental point of view, this might make total sense. With a keyboard that costs as much as a notebook, this could be a dealbreaker for some people.

Understanding the HHKB Layout

The HHKB layout differs from all standard key designs, going back to the Japanese computer pioneer, Dr. Eiiti Wada. Wada wanted to create a keyboard that was as compact as possible and was inspired by Sun’s old Unix keyboards. His goal was to create a keyboard where users would never have to move their hands away from the middle row keys. Therefore, the HHKB is a so-called 60 percent keyboard, i.e., a keyboard without the numeric keypad, the navigation keys, and the function row.

That’s also the reason some keys are only accessible via key combinations.

The Happy Hacking Keyboard Layout

However, the layout of the HHKB makes it relatively easy to execute these key combinations compared to other 60 percent keyboards. This is partly because the secondary layout is well thought out and because the Fn key, which is necessary for the key combinations, is well-positioned. 

It is located at the right outer edge of the second bottom row of keys and can thus be reached easily with the little finger from the middle row of keys without moving the hand much. If you regularly use the TDCK, you should get used to it after only a few days.

Apart from the dual assignment of some keys, which is simply due to the keyboard’s compact design, a few other things in the keyboard layout deviate slightly from the norm. The HHKB uses a key layout according to the US ANSI standard. However, some keys are found elsewhere due to the Unix templates of the keyboard. For example, the MSDS control key is located where the caps lock key is usually located on other keyboards. Since there is no function row, the escape key is also found to the left of the numerical row.

Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional Hybrid: Design and finish

The design of the Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional Hybrid we tested differs only slightly from its direct predecessors. In direct comparison, however, the look has become a bit more modern. But since the keyboard is still made of high-quality plastic, its origin in the 1990s still cannot be disputed. The Bluetooth version addresses a criticism often voiced in online chatter: the additional weight makes the hybrid version of the TCCB feel much more expensive.

The Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional Hybrid uses, like all HHKB keyboards of the Professional series, the electrical-capacitive Topre switches. Technically, the HHKB is not a mechanical keyboard – but the typing feel is more reminiscent of some mechanical keyboards than cheap membrane keyboards. The force required to release the keys is 45 grams. The durability of the keys should be around 50,000 strokes. This is equivalent to the durability of Cherry MX switches.

The key caps of the Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional Hybrid are made of polybutylene terephthalate (PBT). Unlike the acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) plastic used in many keyboards, the plastic does not wear out as quickly. While ABS keycaps often acquire a particular shine after some time due to wear, there is nothing to worry about the HHKB. 

In contrast to older models, the new hybrid variant’s space key is also made of PBT. With this, the manufacturer PFU has also eliminated another shortcoming of earlier versions.

The model provided to us by the manufacturer had anthracite-colored keycaps, which are labeled in black. If you write blindly anyway, this should not bother you. But if you rely on looking at the keys more often, you should consider the white version of the keyboard.

Happy Hacking Professional Keyboard Type-S in White

HHKB Hybrid: Bluetooth connections and layout adaptation

The Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional Hybrid can be coupled with four devices. With a simple key combination, you can switch between the devices. This is useful if you want to use the keyboard for your computer and a tablet simultaneously. In our test, this worked without any problems.

As with previous models, you can access the keyboard layout via several DIP switches. On the one hand, you can switch between Mac and Windows layout. On the other hand, you can also determine whether the delete key should behave like a backspace key. You can also swap the Alt and Rhombus keys. This makes sense, especially for Windows users, since the rhombus key acts as a Windows key under the Microsoft operating system.

The key assignment can be further customized with optional Windows software. All keys except the Fn key can be changed in their assignment. For programming, however, you have to establish a connection via a USB-C cable. It is not possible to use the software via a Bluetooth connection. At least, the changes are stored in the keyboard directly. So there is no need to use software tools if you want to use alternative layouts like Dvorak.

Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional Hybrid: Price and conclusion

The keyboard version tested by us costs $320 in the online store of PFU or on Amazon. A lot of money for a keyboard with a layout that some people might not be able to handle right away. For the Type-S variant, which has a little quieter keys, you have to shell out around $400. Both variants are available in black or white and with unprinted or printed keycaps.

In the end, the price is probably the biggest drawback: The keyboard is exceptionally well made, and if the wired predecessors are an indication of the durability of the hybrid version, then the new edition should also serve for many years. But the layout remains a matter of taste in the end. For HHKB enthusiasts, who would voluntarily not use anything else, it is an advantage of the keyboard that should not be despised. We would still recommend the HHKB, but those who switch should be aware that it could be a potentially costly mistake if they cannot get used to the key layout.

For owners of the previous model, a purchase could be worthwhile if they want a Bluetooth-capable version of the HHKB, which can also be connected to the computer via cable. On the other hand, those satisfied with their wired HHKB are unlikely to benefit from an upgrade.

In addition to the new keyboards, Fujitsu has also introduced a range of accessories for the HHKB. These include a tablet holder and a cover to protect the keyboard from dust when not in use. Both items are available in the U.S. for $35 each. There is also a wooden wrist-rest with the STCW logo, for which Fujitsu is asking $50.

The keyboard cover and palm rest are also available in a package, including a carrying bag for the keyboard and accessories. It costs $105 and is available in various color combinations.

Why are Electric Cars so Expensive?

Why are most electric cars only suitable for shorter distances?

Only very few electric cars achieve ranges of more than 200 kilometers, otherwise, the battery would be too large and heavy, because the energy density of rechargeable batteries is lower than that of petrol, for example.

One kilogram of petrol (around 1.33 liters) contains almost 12,000 watt-hours (Wh) of energy. Lithium-ion batteries in cars today have an energy density of no more than 140 Wh/kg. Since a typical electric car consumes about 20,000 Wh per 100 kilometers, it must carry about 150 kilograms of batteries.

What makes the battery so expensive?

The battery is the most expensive part of the electric car. In the E-Smart, for example, only the battery system costs an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 euros. That’s because battery modules consisting of several cells are connected together to achieve energy quantities of 15 to 30 kWh, which is usually required by an electric car. This means that a single battery can contain several hundred small individual modules.

Above all, however, demand affects the price: lithium-ion batteries suitable for use in cars cost a good 500 euros per kWh today. With large-scale production, the costs could be reduced to 130 to 160 euros in the future.

How long does an e-car battery last?

Experts estimate the service life to be ten years and more – provided that the battery is always kept at a good temperature. This means that heat generated during charging can permanently clog the battery. For that reason, it should be kept at a temperature of 25 to 45 degrees Celsius. In addition, the frequency and, above all, the intensity of charging and discharging have a decisive influence on the battery’s durability.

This is why batteries in electric vehicles are only discharged to around 20 percent of their capacity. This means that several thousand charging and discharging cycles are possible before performance drops significantly. The manufacturers guarantee mileages of between 100,000 and 160,000 kilometers. But real long-term experience is lacking.

How high is the fire risk?

In mid-2011, a Chevrolet Volt caught fire after a crash test; a year later, a Chinese e-taxi went up in flames. It’s individual cases like these that fuel discussions about the fire risk of lithium-ion batteries. Accident researchers are reassuring, however: In principle, drivers of series-produced electric cars are not exposed to higher risks in the event of a collision than in a comparable vehicle with a combustion engine.

Even the recent battery fires at Boeing’s “Dreamliner” cannot automatically be used to derive safety risks for electric cars: The aviation company uses lithium cobalt dioxide batteries – one of the most flammable lithium-ion variants. Less explosive materials are used in cars.

How much does battery production pollute the environment?

Assuming a service life of 150,000 kilometers, modern batteries account for a maximum of 15 percent of the total environmental impact caused by the manufacture, operation and disposal of electric cars, according to the results of a Swiss study.

According to material testers, regular charging has the greatest impact on the life cycle assessment. If, for example, a common European electricity mix is used to charge the car, the environmental impact is much greater than the battery itself.

Through recycling and dual-use, however, batteries could become more environmentally friendly in the future, since a large proportion of the raw materials can be recovered. In addition, cells that are already too weak for cars can be used for years as stationary energy storage devices, for example in homes with photovoltaic systems.

sweden's electric road

Charging Electric Cars while Driving

In Sweden, the world’s first electrified road has gone into operation, allowing the batteries of all types of electric vehicles to be charged while driving.

In Hong Kong there is an “Electric Road”, but it is only called that. In Arlanda, Sweden, there is indeed an electric road, because it allows electric vehicles to be charged while driving. The technology is in the road.

E-Road test track north of Stockholm in operation

The Director General of the Swedish Transport Authority Trafikverket, Lena Erixon, the Minister of Infrastructure Tomas Eneroth and the inventor of the conductor rail Gunnar Asplund officially inaugurated the electrified road on the eRoadArlanda on 26.04.2018.

The technology works like this: a sliding pantograph under the truck takes current from the conductor rail on the ground. The pantograph can move sideways and is automatically folded down into the conductor rail and back up again. The loading capacity is 200 kW.

Electric overhead line versus conductor rail in the ground

The newly patented technology of charging via a rail in the ground has the advantage over charging via an overhead line that it is suitable for all electric vehicles – not only for trucks or buses. Any type of electric vehicle can be charged in this way while driving. If this technology were used across the board, even electric cars with small batteries would have an unlimited range. Another advantage is that the conductor rails require lower investment costs than overhead lines and have less impact on the landscape

Electrification of road traffic – CO2 reduction

The eRoadArlanda electrified road was opened in mid-April 2018 and is now being tested under demanding road and weather conditions over an extended trial period of at least one year. During this period, the project’s purpose-built, fully electric trucks will transport goods between the freight terminal at Arlanda Airport and the nearby logistics facility of the logistics company PostNord.

“The electrification of road transport is an important factor in reducing overall carbon dioxide emissions in society. Carbon dioxide emissions from trucks account for about a quarter of the total emissions from road transport. So the development of electrified roads can be an important piece of the puzzle in reducing emissions from the transport sector,” says Annika Ramsköld, Head of Sustainability at Vattenfall.

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