Citroën introduces oli concept sustainable electric vehicle (EV)

Citroën has revealed details of its new Citroën oli concept electric vehicle (EV). Following in the footsteps of the quirky-looking but completely practical Ami 100% ëlectric, it showcases Citroën’s innovative and unconventional take on electric family mobility. We’re sure the looks are going to divide people but the child in us loves the toy-like looks. 

Citroën oli concept is designed to do the same for family mobility that Ami achieved for personal urban mobility. The French carmaker says it acts as a precursor to the concepts and innovations that will be available in future Citroën electric models. 

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Vincent Cobée, Citroën CEO, said: “We called this project ‘oli’ as a nod to Ami, and because it sums up what the vehicle is all about – further proof that only Citroën can deliver no-nonsense, All-Electric mobility to all kinds of people in unexpected, responsible and rewarding ways.”

While Ami was literally a small step in ‘walking the talk’, oli signals an exciting leap forwards. Rather than being a 2,500kg ‘palace on wheels’ filled with screens and gadgets, oli proves that more can be achieved with less. 

It showcases how inventive use of responsible materials and a sustainable production process can lead to inexpensive yet desirable zero-emission vehicles that meet multiple lifestyles.

Cobée added: “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.”

A typical mid-70s family car weighed around 800kg and was 3.7m long and 1.6m wide. Today’s equivalents have grown to more than 1200kg, at least 4.3 m long and 1.8m wide. Some even weigh more than 2500kg.

Cobée continued: “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.

“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 maximise usage.”

Through the use of lightweight materials, oli can extend the range of the 40kWh battery on board to up to 248 miles (400km) between charges. Citroën has also limited the top speed of the oli to 68mph (110mph) to maximise efficiency, while rapid charging from 20 to 80 per cent takes just 23 minutes.

With the oli Citroën is offering a conceptual multi-activity family vehicle with sustainability at its heart and demonstrates how ‘best-in-class’ Life-Cycle-Assessment (LCA) can be achieved.

Sustainable Materials

It features lightweight and recycled materials along with sustainable production processes. It also delivers durability for an extended ‘life in service’ through to responsible end-of-life recyclability. 

The seats, for example, are simply constructed and use 80 per cent fewer 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 personalised to suit the taste of individual owners.

Laurence Hansen, Head of Citroën Product Development, said: “Ultimately, it’s a lifestyle choice more than a vehicle choice. You can choose to pay for all the latest features and artificial intelligence which you only use two per cent of the time when driving.

“Or you can ask yourself; ‘what is the responsible thing to do and how much of this do I really need?’ oli is a way to say enough and I do want something innovative, but I want it straightforward, affordable, responsible and long lasting.  oli is all of that.”

By supporting smart ‘Vehicle to Grid’ (V2G) capability, the potential exists for a vehicle like oli to make money for its owner by storing excess energy from home solar panels. This can then be sold back to energy suppliers, as well as helping to manage power issues when there is peak demand or a power outage in the grid.

Citroën oli also shows how a vehicle can perform as a home away from home for summer trips to the beach or a camping weekend in the hills, thanks to its ‘Vehicle to Load’ (V2L) capability. Considering its 40kWh battery and a power socket output of 3.6kW (the equivalent of a 230v 16amp domestic socket), oli can theoretically provide power to a 3,000w electric device for around 12 hours.

Square Design

While the oli is never going to win any aerodynamic efficiency awards, its flat bonnet, roof and rear ‘pick-up bed’ panels were chosen to meet the objectives for low weight, high strength and maximum durability.

They’re made from recycled corrugated cardboard formed into a honeycomb sandwich structure between fibreglass reinforcing panels. These have been co-created with partner BASF. 

These are then coated in Elastoflex Polyurethane resin covered in a protective layer of tough, textured Elastocoat. This is often used on parking decks or loading ramps and painted with innovative, waterborne BASF R-M Agilis paint.

The panels are extremely rigid, light and strong, so strong that an adult can stand on them. 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 on each side of the roof panel allow owners to attach accessories like bicycle racks and roof boxes for family vacations. Below the bonnet, are neat storage areas including compartments for charging cables and any personal and emergency items.

Pierre Leclercq,  Citroën Head of Design, said: “All of the key design elements on oli are perfectly horizontal or vertical, which is something we want to explore. The usual approach would be to go for dynamic lines and other vehicle makers wouldn’t dare to do what we have done – but we are looking for honesty and efficiency in the form language.”

Boot Practicality

Another neat feature of the oli is the boot. It features an unexpected, inspired design. It comes with a pick-up bed inside the boot for added practicality. The independent rear seat headrests pop up into the roof and 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 582mm height between the vehicle floor and the rear glass. With the panel in place, 330mm height of useful and secure 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.

Thoughtful rails on each side of the bed allow users to attach hooks or accessories, and additional storage boxes are located on the sidewalls to provide secure undercover stowage.

All-Round Protection

You might ask yourself how safe is theCitroën oli being made of cardboard and plastic? It is both protective and protected, thanks to tough exterior plastic sections. These demonstrate the same purity when it comes to reducing the number of parts, using responsible materials and reducing weight.

To execute Citroën’s signature design element, partner Plastic Omnium helped create a ‘mono material’ approach to facilitate easy recycling with strong but light side protection. It features 100 per cent recyclable bumpers made from PolyPropylene containing 50 per cent recycled materials. 

The wheel arches are capped with an identical, strong recycled plastic protector with a horizontal top, echoing the contrast theme used for the windows and lighting modules.

Central bumper sections, like those used on the Ami, are identical front and rear. Below, triangular infra-red ‘handles’ are, in fact, strong hooks which would help drivers tow another vehicle out of the mud or pull a large obstacle out of the way. Even oli’s tough white BASF R-M Agilis waterborne paint is eco-effective with the lowest level of volatile organic compounds (below 250g/l).


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

It’s worth noting that 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.

Instead of bulky armchairs to block out the light and fill the cabin, oli’s space-efficient front seats use 80 per cent fewer parts than the seats in an equivalent SUV – just 8 rather than 37.

The front seats are made using strong tubular frames with comfortable base cushions covered in textiles made from 100 per cent recycled polyester which is 100 per cent recyclable. Innovative 3D-printed mesh backrests feature an integrated headrest and are inspired by modern office furniture. They also amplify the feeling of space and light inside the vehicle

Instead of heavy inner door panels containing switches, armrests, speakers and window motors, oli’s simplified panels maximise storage while providing the infrastructure for comfort and easy opening and closing.

Rather than use hard-to-clean carpets, oli features a single-piece, modular floor covering made in partnership with BASF from Expanded Thermoplastic Polyurethane (E-TPU). The foam is as elastic as rubber but lighter, extremely resilient and highly resistant to abrasion. It can be replaced altogether if an owner prefers a new colour.

Circle of Life

A key element of the oli story is how it has been conceived with longevity to create its own circular economy. It shows how a vehicle can be easily and affordably reinvented for several subsequent lives with new owners using refurbished parts, new décors or colours, and even upgraded parts over time.

The overall cost of ownership will be low. If there is a need to replace a door, headlamp or bumper, recycled parts could be sourced responsibly via Citroën from other oli vehicles that are no longer serviceable.

Logically, if it costs more to refurbish a vehicle than to buy a new one, vehicles won’t be refurbished. oli changes this – it is more environmentally and economically positive to refurbish than replace over several lifecycles. 

When no longer economical to refurbish, Citroën would turn each oli into a recycled parts donor for others requiring parts or send other parts for general recycling. 

The Overall Ambition
Citroën believes the time is right to say ‘enough’ to the trend of excess and expense. Instead, it’s time to focus on creating pure, honest vehicles that are lighter, less complicated and truly affordable, as well as inventive and joyful.

With oli, Citroën is showing how it will raise the stakes for future family mobility by re-thinking every detail to reduce resources and materials without compromising on quality or versatility.

Cobée concluded: “Citroën oli exemplifies our mobility mission; responsible, straightforward and affordable for your daily life while still aspirational, desirable and enjoyable. It is our guiding light for the solution you’ll want to have as the only vehicle your family needs ten years from now.”

Ian Osborne
Ian Osborne
Editor-in-Chief at ElectricDrives

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