Right after having unveiled its new brand identity, Citroën stunned the international press last Friday, when it presented its OLI concept car in Paris.
You can judge yourself from the photos I took with my flagship Samsung S22 (I am getting increasingly used to it now) how completely groundbreaking the design and the whole concept of the car is actually.
I decided to bring the news of this concept car in different episodes, as thanks to the excellent PR people, I was able to have interviews with not only the CEO of Citroën, Vincent Cobée, but also with Laurence Hansen, Head of Citroën Product Development and Citroën’s Head of Design, Pierre Leclercq. I will bring this extensively in further reports, together with also a further interview with Laurent Barria, responsible for marketing.
So read on, and you can expect much more soon!
Hans Knol ten Bensel
In the footsteps of the Ami…now for mobility of the whole family.
Citroën already showed with its Ami (in a few days, we will also attend in Brussels the introduction of the Ami Buggy) that it believes strongly in offering affordable mobility, and it builds further on this concept, taking ‘unconventional’ to a new level with this conceptual oli [all-ë].
The Citroën oli concept is designed to do the same for family mobility that Ami achieved for personal urban mobility. Significantly, oli acts as a precursor to the concepts and innovations that will be available in future Citroën electric models.
The oli concept car focuses on how more can be achieved with less, first and foremost with less weight, how the inventive use of responsible materials and a sustainable production process can lead to inexpensive yet desirable zero-emission vehicles that meet multiple lifestyles.
In his introduction speech, CEO Vincent Cobée stated “Three societal conflicts are happening simultaneously – first is the value of and dependence on mobility, second is economic constraints and resource uncertainty, and third is our growing sense of desire for a responsible and optimistic future.”
Then he commented on the trend that cars are becoming bigger, heavier and more complex…
“A typical mid-70s family car weighed around 800kg and was 3.7 m long and 1.6m wide.” He continued. Today’s equivalents have grown to more than 1200kg, are at least 4.3 m long and 1.8m wide. Some even weigh more than 2500kg. Legal and safety requirements have driven some of this, but if the trend continues and we carry on parking these vehicles 95% of each day and driving 80% of journeys with a single occupant, the conflict between the need to protect our planet and the future promise of sustainable, electrified mobility will not easily be resolved.”
He concluded: ““Citroën believes electrification should not mean extortion, and being eco-conscious should not be punitive by restricting our mobility or making vehicles less rewarding to live with. We need to reverse the trends by making them lighter and less expensive and find inventive ways to maximize usage.”
So true we would say, and it is this unerring vision which inspired Citroën to build this concept car.
They focused instead on creating a pure, honest vehicle that is above all lighter, less complicated and truly affordable, as well as inventive and joyful.
With oli, Citroën is raising the stakes for future family mobility by re-thinking every detail to reduce resources and needed materials without compromising on quality or versatility.
A car conceived and built for a (very) long life
Who does not crave for a car which becomes your classic, beloved, (life)long companion? Well, that’s the beauty of it, the oli will be at your side, no matter what or how long. This conceptual multi-activity family vehicle has sustainability at its heart and demonstrates how ‘best-in-class’ Life-Cycle-Assessment (LCA) can be achieved, from conception onwards with restrained, optimal use of lightweight and recycled materials, to sustainable production processes, and from durability for an extended ‘life in service’ to responsible end-of-life recyclability. The front and rear end parts can be easily changed, upgraded, customized, and the oli can within the family be passed from one generation to another…
Clever details are found throughout. The seats, for example, are simply constructed and use 80% less parts than a traditional seat. They are made of recycled materials and clever ‘mesh’ backrest designs enhance the natural light inside the vehicle.
They can also be easily upgraded or personalized to suit the taste of individual owners. It’s indeed the result of a chosen and adopted lifestyle, and the concept car reflects that. Your servant also suggested to Citroën Head of Design Pierre Leclercq that in the aftermarket, a company like Ikea could offer their version of the seats to rejuvenate the interior after many years of use, for instance. Pierre Leclercq liked the idea…
Less weight means less power needed and more range…
The oli offers reasonable, useable performance for many. Through the use of lightweight materials, oli can extend the range of the 40kWh battery on board to up to 248 miles between charges. Citroën has also limited the top speed of the oli to 68mph to maximise efficiency, while rapid charging capability ensures a charge from 20% to 80% takes just 23 minutes.
Extraordinary looks, harbinger of a total revolution…
The reasonable performance – read top speed – gave extra room for the designers to shape the concept car. Striking and clearly making a statement, oli’s unconventional stance and silhouette exude personality, productivity and positivity in a footprint similar to a compact SUV at 4.20m long, 1.65m high and 1.90m wide.
It defies traditional labelling. oli can be whatever it needs to be – family limo, urban explorer, adventure vehicle, workmate, or even an extension to the family home thanks to its ability to power everyday appliances.
Pierre Leclercq, believes oli embraces purity and geniality for families who don’t care for automotive status and stereotypes. I couldn’t agree more…
In the oli, the aesthetic approach has been deliberately exaggerated to reinforce functionality and versatility. And, like Ami, it is not afraid to show its simple and intuitive approach and distinguishes itself with its playful use of colour highlights, bright trim materials and vivacious patterns that advocate opportunities for personalisation.
The oli truly threads new paths here. Oli’s flat bonnet, roof and rear ‘pick-up bed’ panels, as well as driving the vehicle’s unique silhouette, were chosen to meet the objectives for low weight, high strength and maximum durability.
Made from recycled corrugated cardboard formed into a honeycomb sandwich structure between fibreglass reinforcing panels, they have been co-created with partner BASF. They are coated in Elastoflex® Polyurethane resin covered in a protective layer of tough, textured Elastocoat®, which is often used on parking decks or loading ramps, and painted with innovative, waterborne BASF R-M Agilis® paint.
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.
Load carrying versatility is not compromised either, as roof rails each side of the roof panel allow owners to attach accessories like bicycle racks and roof boxes for family vacations, while below the bonnet panel are neatly detailed storage areas including compartments for charging cables plus personal and emergency items.
Not afraid to go vertical…
All of the key design elements on oli are perfectly horizontal or vertical, indeed, Citroën is looking for honesty and efficiency in the form language.
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 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, creating a curtain effect to smooth airflow over the roof.
The eye-catching windscreen frame is finished with a bright ‘infra-red’ wrap – a new signature colour Citroën will use in conjunction with its new brand identity.
The contrast between horizontal and vertical is evident in the rationally thought-through side panels and glass.
The front doors follow the example set by 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.
The external door panel is simpler to stamp and is designed to maximize interior storage. Gentle curvatures flow up the sides of the vehicle, and into the top of the side glass as it tumbles home to the roof.
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” pantograph 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 to give rear passengers more light and visibility. The change in form between the front and rear doors also gave an opportunity to add a passive air intake providing ventilation for rear seat passengers.
Access to the spacious cabin is wide, uncluttered and unhindered with both side doors open – ideal for when the driver needs to get straggling family members loaded efficiently.
Front and rear lighting modules are, again, uncomplicated but highly distinctive, and also play with the contrast between two horizontal lines and one vertical section. This approach will be evolved further as a distinctive Citroën lighting signature in future production vehicles.
A pick-up (load)bed in the boot…
Instead of a conventional boot, oli features an unexpected, inspired exercise in useful product design, and comes with a pick-up bed inside the boot for added practicality. The independent rear seat headrests pop up into the roof, the rear screen glass opens upwards, with the flat 994mm wide removable load bed expanding in length from 679mm to 1050mm.
The tailgate folds down and with the load bed panel removed there is up to 582 mm height between the vehicle floor and the rear glass. With the panel in place, 330 mm height of useful and secure trunk space is available below. The removable bed panel is light and flat, and made from the same recycled cardboard structure as the bonnet and roof panels.
But there is more, on the bodywork, the interior, the wheels and drivetrain. More soon!
Hans Knol ten Bensel