MALMO, Sweden – This European city at the southern end of Sweden is known for its reliance on renewable energy, prompting Automobiles Citroen to introduce its C-Zero electric vehicle to the media here.

Reviews have been positive during the car’s six weeks of test drives.

“The electric city car shows itself well,” says the leading French automotive TV show. “Another good surprise: the way it handles…is very pleasant.”

Citroen says some 600 C-Zeros have been ordered in the first few weeks of advance sales. The initial batch of cars will be delivered by the end of the year, and along with its platform mates, the Peugeot iOn and Mitsubishi i-MiEV, will be the first EVs from major auto makers to go on sale in Europe.

The majority of early orders for the EVs are from fleets, says Daniel Herrero, a PSA Peugeot Citroen engineer who has worked on the C-Zero program.

All across the fledgling EV industry, auto makers count on fleet sales, partly because fleet owners can calculate total cost of ownership and balance a higher purchase price with lower running costs.

The C-Zero is unlikely to be an economic choice, however, at its €459 ($637) monthly lease price. After the government purchase incentive of €5,000 ($6,900), five years of lease payments would total E€27,540 ($38,000).

The car will be warrantied for two years, while the battery is covered for five years. One unique feature offered to customers is that eight times during the 5-year lease, the lessee can borrow an internal-combustion Citroen, to take on vacation for example.

In comparison to the C-Zero’s cost, a gasoline-powered Citroen C1 of similar size and power costs about €10,000 ($13,881).

However, Citroen believes the C-Zero, like its sister cars, is a real vehicle that will meet the needs of 95% of the daily trips taken in France with its stated range of 150 km (93 miles) and real-world range of about 100 km (62 miles).

Citroen expects to sell 4,000 units next year, 9,000 in 2012 and 15,000 in 2013, Communications Chief Jean-Baptiste Thomas says.

The C-Zero is based on the i-MiEV, Mitsubishi Motors Corp.’s electric car that has been on sale since May. The i-MiEV, in turn, is based on the “i” minicar, which has a 0.66L gasoline engine.

Although the ‘i’ has an internal-combustion engine, Herrero says the platform was designed from the start to accommodate a lithium-ion battery pack that rides under the floor, where weight is distributed 47% to the front wheels and 53% to the rear wheels in order to assure good driving dynamics. Consequently, the C-Zero is Citroen’s only rear-wheel-drive car.

PSA engineers developed the European version of the EV that will be sold by all three brands, says Herrero, who earlier in his career worked on the electric Citroen Saxo and Peugeot 106.

In order to meet European crash-test standards, the car was lengthened by 3.5 ins. (8.8 cm). The car earned three stars in EuroNCAP crash tests.

PSA made some software and other changes to extend the range of the car some 30%, compared with the Japanese version, says Herrero. The Japanese i-MiEV is rated at 165 km (103 miles), using a local standard that calls for steady state driving.

Where Mitsubishi has three “drive” settings: normal, economy and regenerative braking, PSA rolls them all into one and the accelerator pedal has been given a dual role. Herrero says changing the acceleration function added about 10% to the vehicle’s range, while better recuperation of energy during deceleration and braking added another 10%.

The remainder of the range extension comes from a small improvement in aerodynamics and a battery controller that allows a deeper discharge than on the i-MiEV.

The battery, from GS Yuasa Corp., weighs 287 lbs. (130 kg) and contains 88 cells, packaged in 22 modules for an onboard energy of 16 kWh.

The battery pack is rated at 33 volts, which pass through the inverter to the permanent magnet synchronous motor, and during deceleration from the motor, now an alternator, back through the inverter to the battery.

The motor is rated at 47 kW (64 hp), with maximum torque of 133 lb.-ft. (180 Nm) from 0-2,000 rpm.

The car is designed to be recharged either from a European 220-volt household alternating current, or through a 400-volt fast charge, in which an 80% charge takes just 30 minutes.

Full home recharging will cost about €2 ($2.78) and take six hours in France, where electricity is rated at 16 amps. A refill will take seven hours at 13 amps in the U.K. and nine hours at 10 amps in Sweden.

Electronics are built into the car for slow charges and in the “station” for the fast charge. There is a separate socket for each kind of charging.

A cable supplied with the car is used for household current. One end is an ordinary plug. At the other is a plug specific to the EV that goes into the car’s socket, in this case a socket with five connections (two for power, one ground and two for communication) known as the Yazaki connector, because its basic design originated with supplier Yazaki Corp.

Fast-charging will use a cable attached permanently to the charging station on the infrastructure side, with a plug on the other end that plugs into the fast-charge socket on the car. That plug and socket use the CHAdeMO standard developed in Japan by the Tokyo Electric Power Co. and auto makers such as Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., Mitsubishi, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. and Toyota Motor Corp.

Citroen already sells an electric version of the Citroen Berlingo, using a Zebra nickel-sodium-chloride hot battery, for which it has received 400 orders, including 250 from the French post office.

The auto maker has an EV history, having sold 5,500 electric Citroen Saxos beginning in the mid-1990s, which used lead-acid batteries.

Those vehicles are less-sophisticated than the C-Zero, which offers many modern security and comfort features, such as antilock brakes, power steering and windows, Garmin telematics, heater and air conditioner, Bluetooth and Citroen e-Touch, which is the auto maker’s emergency-call service.