“Oli is a working platform to explore ingenious ideas that are realistic for future production,” says Laurence Hansen, head of product development, at Citroën.
“They won’t all come together, nor in the physical shape you see here, but the high level of innovation being showcased is inspiring future Citroëns.”
Design Chief Pierre Leclercq and his team at Citroën, together with BASF and Goodyear, have revealed the new Oli concept—a compact-size Jeep-like quirky-looking SUV that gives an idea of what to expect from the brand in future years.
The Oli’s utilitarian shape reflects Leclercq’s belief that “form follows function.”
The aesthetic approach has been deliberately exaggerated to reinforce functionality and versatility, distinguishing itself with its playful use of color highlights, bright trim materials, and vibrant patterns that advocate opportunities for personalization.
“We’re not afraid to show you how the vehicle is put together, so you can see frames, screws, and hinges, for example. Embracing purity allows us to design differently and challenge everything. It’s like taking an analog approach to many things that have become digital today,” adds Leclercq.
The Oli name (pronounced “all e,” as in electric) is meant to refer to the Ami, the automaker says, but unlike that car, which evoked the small Ami 2CV variant from the late 1960s, the Oli does not refer to past Citroën models.
“Citroen is not a sports-car brand,” states Citroën CEO Vincent Cobee, “and because we wanted (the messages to be) recyclable, affordable, attractive, and efficient, we wanted to start with form equals function,”
The Citroën Oli concept has a relatively small 40kWh battery, however, the claimed range is an ambitious 248 miles.
Citroën plans to achieve this by keeping the weight as low as possible. The Oli weighs just 1,000kg and is limited to 68mph.
The car has been designed to be as lightweight as possible in order to boost range, as well as being made from sustainable materials and built with affordability in mind.
This weight-saving regime includes new material for the roof and bonnet.
It’s reinforced honeycomb cardboard coated in resin to make it waterproof.
Citroën co-created that feature with BASF, using recycled, corrugated cardboard to form a honeycomb structure sandwiched between fiberglass reinforcing panels.
Each panel is coated in Elastoflex® Polyurethane resin covered in a protective layer of tough, textured Elastocoat®, often used on parking decks or loading ramps, and painted with BASF R-M Agilis® paint.
Not only is it much lighter than steel, it’s actually strong enough to stand on.
The upright windscreen and the boxy design certainly make it stand out.
The front end features some clever vents to direct air around the windscreen, as well as funky C-shaped LED lights.
The windscreen is a completely flat piece of glass in order to keep manufacturing costs down.
The flat windshield is reminiscent of an old VW or U.S. Army Jeep.
Because the Oli is a concept, aerodynamics are less of a concern than they would be in the real world, Citroen designers say, but an “Aero Duct” system at the leading edge of the hood directs air above the roof to create a “curtain” effect.
The side features rear-hinged back doors, as well as some massive alloy wheels.
Around the rear of the car, there are more angular lights and an open bed a bit like a pickup truck. This will probably be covered for the production version.
The wheels are weight- and a money-saving blend of steel and aluminum.
Other complexity-reducing measures include identical left and right front doors (mounted in the opposite orientation) without soundproofing, wiring or speakers, and identical front and rear bumpers, made by Plastic Omnium of 50 percent recycled materials.
To achieve a smaller environmental footprint, the Oli employs innovative technologies such as Goodyear Eagle GO tires that use a tread partly made from sustainable materials including natural rubbler, sunflower oil, rice husks and pine resin.
Like tires on heavy-duty trucks, the Eagle GO can be recapped with a new tread several times, giving it a lifespan of up to 500,000 km, Goodyear says.
Interior materials also reflect a Green ethos.
The tubular-frame suspension-style seats, which Citroen says to use 80 percent fewer parts than a conventional seat, are made of 3D-printed recycled polyurethane from BASF to eliminate waste and save weight. Floor materials are also polyurethane, (which is molded like a sneaker sole) to reduce material diversity and aid in recycling.
The weight-saving theme continues on the interior with some funky-looking orange mesh seats and foam floor mats instead of carpet.
The Oli also has no infotainment system, opting instead for a docking station for your phone and space for two portable speakers in the dashboard.
This not only saves weight, but also makes the car more affordable.
How affordable? Well, it’s a bit too soon to say, but a stripped-back electric SUV such as this could start as low as £20,000.
More important, however, is that Oli is a possible road map toward the goal of an accessible and environmentally friendly electric car that is also desirable and innovative and the future of the carmaker.
“We want to make a statement about affordable, responsible electric cars that exude freedom,” states Cobee.
“Oli is a laboratory that demonstrates that it’s not completely crazy to aim at that.”
Project: Oli Concept Car
Designers: Citroën and BASF
Manufacturer: Citroën, BASF and Goodyear