The Citroën Oli is the cardboard future we want

29th September 2022
Ethan Jupp

Always leave it to Citroën to create a wacky concept to brighten your day. Its latest is called the Oli, pronounced all-e, believe it or not, and it’s a study in sustainability and radical design. The goal is a lighter, cheaper, less complicated and more honest vehicle, in the face of excess and expense. Sounds good to us.


If you’re looking at the design and thinking, “that’s a bit odd”, we’d be inclined to agree, but it’s not weird for weird’s sake. Its design has almost been dictated by the study of material use and manufacturing, with straight lines and flat surfaces, to minimise surface area and simplify process.

The lights and new badging give the Oli its signature personality. The former are meant to headline the design ethos of mixing vertical and horizontal lines. All in, it gives a Toyota FJ Cruiser meets Citroën Ami kind of vibe, that’s a lot to take in, especially given Oli does preview Citroën’s future design direction.


“All of the key design elements on Oli are perfectly horizontal or vertical, which is something we want to explore,” said Citroën’s Head of Design, Pierre Leclercq.

“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.”

So what’s it actually made of? The quirkiness isn’t just superficial, given the roof, bonnet and load bed are made of recycled corrugated cardboard, which has been formed into a honeycomb sandwich structure, between fibreglass panels. The end result is rigid strong body panels that are lighter by as much as 50 per cent when compared with steel. Yet they’re still strong enough for load carrying, with Oli featuring roof rails. Citroën says adults can stand on the panels just fine.


Everything is simpler, with the reduced-complexity doors that are the same on both sides (thanks Ami) weighing 20 per cent less than normal. This is thanks to a lack of loudspeakers, sound deadening and electrical wiring. All in the Oli is made of 100 per cent recycled materials, which is highly impressive.

Okay, so what about aerodynamics? Vertical screens are famously draggy, or put simply, as draggy as it gets. Ask anyone who’s been in a Hummer what that sounds like. Citroën with the Oli have thankfully developed a solution, with an Aero Duct system in the front section, which blows a curtain of air up and over the screen, smoothing outside airflow. Remember the system on the windscreen-less McLaren Elva? The effect is a bit like that.

The Citroën Oli is of course all electric, with no details given on the motors. The battery however does get numbers, specifically 40kWh for an overall range of up to 248 miles. That’s a bit more to play with there than the Ami and rightly so.


“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,” Citroën CEO Vincent Cobee explains.

“A typical mid-70s family car weighed around 800kg and was 3.7 m long and 1.6m wide. Today’s equivalents have grown to more than 1,200kg, at least 4.3m long and 1.8m wide. Some even weigh more than 2,500kg. 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.”

Powerful words speaking to a point we can get behind. The Oli is a curious little thing, but we’re fully on board with what it’s trying to achieve. Praise be, for weird Citroën concepts!

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