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Citroën Oli EV focuses on weight reduction

Lightweight, budget-focused concept takes chunky styling to a whole new level


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3 Oct 2022

CUTTING weight and reducing purchase price is central to the thinking behind a blocky new EV concept from Citroën.


Called ‘Oli’, the quasi-ute concept follows the trail blazed by the Citroën Ami some decades earlier, providing a barebones approach that takes ‘unconventional’ to a whole new level.


The innovative Ami demonstrated how Citroën could do things differently, a philosophy that has carried through to the present day as it strives to meet a commitment of making straightforward all-electric transportation available to all.


Oli is, according to Citroën, a ‘laboratory on wheels’ designed to ‘move the needle’ for family mobility by bucking industry trends for heavier, more complex and expensive electric cars.


“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,” said Citroën CEO Vincent Cobée.


The car is a collection of clever and achievable ideas focused on reducing weight and complexity to maximise efficiency, versatility and accessibility. When (or ‘if’) it goes into production, customers can expect to see many of the concepts and innovations showcased in Oli flowing through to Citroën’s future electric family vehicles.


According to information that came to light this week, a Citroën statement said: “Rather than being a 2500kg palace on wheels filled with screens and gadgets, Oli proves that with enough of the things customers need and want, supported by the inventive use of responsible materials and a sustainable production process, buyers and society’s need can be met for inexpensive yet desirable zero-emission mobility that enables multiple lifestyles”.


Mr Cobée said the time is right for Oli, adding: “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”.


“Consumers can sense the era of abundance may be over and increasing regulations as well as rising costs may limit our ability to move around freely. At the same time, a growing awareness of the need to accelerate efforts to prevent climate change is making us more eco-conscious and discerning.”


Citroën says, a typical mid-70s family car weighed around 800kg and was 3700mm long and 1600mm wide. Today’s equivalents have grown to more than 1200kg, at least 4300mm long and 1800mm wide.


Many vehicles in Western countries even weigh more than 2500kg – including most premium SUVs and larger EVs.


Legal and safety requirements have driven some of this, but if the trend continues and we carry on parking these vehicles 95 per cent of each day and driving 80 per cent 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 and refurbish for subsequent owners,” said Mr Cobée.


“Otherwise, families won’t be able to afford the freedom of mobility when all-electric vehicles become the only option available to them. Oli is a powerful demonstration of how Citroën is confronting these conflicts head-on and with optimism.”


For Laurence Hansen, head of Citroën Product Development, and Laurent Barria, head of Citroën Marketing and Communication, Oli epitomises Citroën’s mission to democratise electric mobility in an agreeable way.


According to Citroën the time is right to say ‘enough’ to the trend for excess and expense and to focus instead on creating pure, honest vehicles that are lighter, less complicated and truly affordable – as well as inventive and joyful.


The quirky and uncomplicated Ami was a significant move in that direction, while electrified and all-electric models like the ë-C4 and new ë-C4-X, and light commercial vehicles like ë-Berlingo and ë-SpaceTourer, already provide access to the benefits of electrified motoring with the comfort, personality and value customers expect from Citroën.


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 to make pleasing vehicles that are easier to use, understand and afford, with appropriate driving range and enhanced versatility.


“Oli is a working platform to explore ingenious ideas that are realistic for future production,” said Mr Hansen.


“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.


The Oli is touted a multi-activity family vehicle with sustainability at its heart, and explicitly demonstrates how ‘best-in-class’ Life-Cycle-Assessment (LCA) can be achieved with 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.


“We wanted to use only the amount of materials we really needed, so we have ruthlessly pursued the objective of putting the right resources where they are required, and limiting the impact of the use of those resources” said Mr Hansen.


When the number of parts and components is reduced, the lightest and most responsible materials are used, and complexity is minimised while versatility and functionality is increased, the result is something much more efficient, very affordable and less complicated while also being unexpectedly genial in its design and usefulness.


Thoughtful details are found throughout. The seats, for example, are simply constructed and use 80 per cent 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 personalised to suit the taste of individual owners. It is a win-win as vehicle weight is reduced, they are responsible and sustainable, and the enhanced cabin ambience positively impacts occupant comfort.


The Citroën Oli also shows that by tackling the enemies of battery-electric-vehicle range and efficiency, electric vehicles can go further, last longer, be more versatile and cost less to own.


“It’s a vicious circle – delivering more electric driving range requires a bigger battery. Adding more technology requires more power, which also means a bigger battery. All of this adds weight, complexity, and cost, and the more a vehicle weighs, the less efficient it becomes,” added Mr Hansen.


“Oli shows what can happen when we take a completely different approach.”


While it appears substantial, the Oli is neither heavy nor cumbersome – its target vehicle weight of around 1000kg makes it around the same weight as a Mazda MX-5.


As a result, its all-electric powertrain needs only a 40kWh battery to deliver a target range of up to 400km. By limiting top speed to 110km/h to maximise efficiency, excellent consumption of 10kWh/100km is realistic, and recharging from 20 per cent to 80 per cent takes 23 minutes.


By supporting smart ‘Vehicle to Grid’ (V2G) capability, the potential exists for a vehicle like the Oli 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.


Citroën’s 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, the manufacturer said.


Considering its 40kWh battery and a power socket output of 3.6kW (the equivalent of a 230V/16A domestic socket), the Oli can theoretically provide power to a 3000W electric device for around 12 hours.


The Oli is largely made from recycled corrugated cardboard formed into a honeycomb sandwich structure between fiberglass reinforcing panels, Citroën 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 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. Their versatility and durability open up a world of possibilities for owners to enjoy work and recreation.


A new badge evokes the company’s original 1919 logo and re-imagines it for future Citroëns. The identity is set to appear progressively on future product reveals, as well as throughout the Citroën corporate and dealership networks.

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