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Citroën oli concept

Citroën oli EV concept, made from recycled cardboard

Cars are continually increasing in size and weight, both of which have a negative impact on efficiency, and so it’s great news that the Citroën oli concept aims to address this problem.

The oli (not ‘oil’, and Citroën says that it’s pronounced ‘all-e’) is all-electric, with a 40kWh battery and a driving range of up to 248 miles. All aspects of the concept have been designed to be as lightweight, sustainable and affordable as possible.

Inspiration is taken from the all-electric Citroën Ami, but rather than being a quadricycle, the oli is a proper car for families – it’s a similar footprint to a compact SUV (4.20m long, 1.65m high and 1.90m wide) – 

So what’s so sustainable about the oli? Well, the bonnet and roof panels are made from recycled corrugated cardboard formed into a honeycomb sandwich structure between fibreglass reinforcing panels. The panels are very rigid, light and strong – so strong that an adult can stand on them – and weight is reduced by 50 per cent when compared to an equivalent steel roof construction. There are 100% recyclable bumpers made from PolyPropylene containing 50% recycled materials.

Instead of bulky automotive seats, oli’s space-efficient front seats use 80% fewer parts than the seats in an equivalent SUV – just 8 rather than 37. They’re made of recycled materials with ‘mesh’ backrest designs which enhance the natural light inside the vehicle. 

The Citroën oli supports smart ‘Vehicle to Grid’ (V2G) capability, offering the potential for the vehicle to make money for its owner by storing excess energy from home solar panels, and selling this back to energy suppliers, as well as helping to manage power issues when there is peak demand or a power outage in the grid.

The oli also has ‘Vehicle to Load’ (V2L) capability, allowing it to power domestic electrical items or camping equipment.

The oli has roof rails each side of the roof panel allowing owners to attach accessories such as bicycle racks and roof boxes, while below the bonnet panel are storage areas including compartments for charging cables.

All of the key design elements on the oli are horizontal or vertical. The windscreen is vertical because it’s the shortest distance between top and bottom and uses the smallest amount of glass. As well as reducing weight and complexity, the smaller screen is less expensive to produce or replace.

To us, this vertical windscreen doesn’t look very aerodynamic, but to aid aerodynamic efficiency, oli features an experimental “Aero Duct” system between the front section of the bonnet and the flat top panel which blows air towards the screen, Citroen says this creates a curtain effect to smooth airflow over the roof.

The front doors follow the example set by the Citroen Ami and are identical on each side, though mounted differently. They are lighter, yet still strong, and much easier to make and assemble. Reducing complexity and simplifying construction saves 20% in weight per door compared to a typical family hatchback. Half the number of components is required, and around 1.7kg per door is saved by the removal of the loudspeaker, soundproofing material and electrical wiring.

Large, horizontal windows are tilted slightly towards the ground to help to reduce the effects of the sun, and manual, easy-to-operate “flip up” opening sections, similar to those used on Ami, provide fresh air ventilation. The narrower rear doors are hinged at the rear of the vehicle and use vertical glass. 

Instead of a conventional boot, the oli features a pick-up bed inside the boot. The removable bed panel is light and flat, and made from the same recycled cardboard structure as the bonnet and roof panels.

The 20-inch wheel and tyre combination fitted to oli has a new hybrid wheel prototype design and a conceptual, sustainable and intelligent tyre co-created with Goodyear.

Because full aluminium wheels are expensive and energy-intensive to produce, and full steel wheels are heavy, the decision was taken to blend the two. The resulting hybrid wheels are 15 per cent lighter than the equivalent full steel wheel, contributing to an overall vehicle weight reduction of 6kg. 

Citroën partnered with Goodyear to use the Eagle GO concept tyre, which combines sustainability with longevity and intelligent technology for monitoring the tyre’s condition and health.

The tyre tread compound is made of nearly all sustainable or recycled materials, including sunflower oils and rice husk ash silica, as well as pine tree resins and full natural rubber which replace synthetic, petroleum-based rubber.

Goodyear has set an objective for the Eagle GO concept tyre to achieve up to a 310,000-mile lifespan through the re-use of the sustainable carcass and the fact the 11 mm tread depth can be renewed twice across the lifetime of the tyre. The tyre is also equipped with Goodyear SightLine technology, which includes a sensor that monitors a variety of tyre health parameters constantly throughout its life.

Instead of a full dashboard with multiple screens and hidden computers, oli features a single symmetrical ‘beam’ running across the width of the console and features the steering column, a smartphone dock, and five clearly identified toggle switches for the air conditioning system in the centre.

The oli uses just 34 parts in this space while a comparable compact family hatchback uses around 75 parts in its dashboard and centre console.

The beam houses an electrified rail into which accessories can be plugged via USB sockets that slide along it. Two direct air vents, one each in front of the driver and passenger, allow the use of a smaller air conditioning unit to further aid efficiency and reduce weight.

Infotainment and communication is provided by your smartphone, which is docked in the central socket on the beam. Once plugged in, phone information and apps are merged with essential vehicle data such as speed and charge level. This is made visible via a ‘Smartband’ system, which projects information across the width of the lower windscreen surround. 

The same approach is used for in-vehicle audio. Each end of the beam is hollow and cylindrical Bluetooth loudspeakers can be ‘docked’ to provide high-quality sound for listening to music on the move; 250g of weight has been saved by eliminating the usual audio system alone.

The oli also introduces Citroen’s new, simplified logo.