Citroen Oli: a radical rethink of small electric cars | CAR Magazine

Citroen Oli: a radical rethink of small electric cars

Published: 29 September 2022 Updated: 29 September 2022

► Citroen Oli baby pick-up concept
► A rethink of the affordable EV
► New Citroen design and branding

Just when you thought that electric cars were spiralling into vortex of overweight, over-complicated excess, along comes the Citroen Oli concept car to make amends.

This is Citroen rethinking the electric vehicle (EV) for the masses: a more democratic kind of battery car for those on a budget – and the resulting baby pick-up is bristling with design touches to remove weight, cull complication and lower prices. Huzzah!

Note also the new-for-2023 Citroen branding. It’s only the tenth rebrand of the double chevrons in 103 years.

Citroen Oli: a back-to-basics EV

If any manufacturer could challenge the status quo, it would be Citroen. The Oli is a bigger brother to the pared-back-to-the-minimum Ami (below) – a larger, more car-like EV designed to keep the quadricycle’s spirit alive in a package better equipped for daily duty.

Citroen Oli (left) and Ami (right): think-different EVs

There’s no production intent; the Citroen Oli is rather a ‘laboratory of ideas,’ according to design chief Pierre Leclercq, who admits some of the details will be seen on next year’s new C3.

The Oli’s purpose is to reverse the excess of electric cars: to make them lighter, simpler and more affordable. Get past the name (derived from All-e… the French don’t do irony) and we find a striking four-seat pick-up dripping with innovative tech to make an EV for the masses.

A compact 4.2m footprint keeps weight down and think-different details abound. The vertical windscreen is flat for cheaper production, and small to reduce the need for powerful air-conditioning; doors are interchangeable (like the Ami’s), as are the front and rear bumpers.

The Oli’s roof and bonnet panels are completely flat, for simpler pressings and greater strength.

Flat roof made from reinforced cardboard panels – strong enough to stand or sit on

The flat bonnet and roof are made from a durable composite made from reinforced recycled cardboard. Sound flimsy? It’s a material already used by the likes of Ford to reinforce the flatbed of its F150 truck – and Citroen proudly declares you can stand or sit on the Oli (it’s true: we tried).

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The circular economy: refitting for future owners

Primed for the circular economy, the Oli is designed to be overhauled by Citroen once a decade before having a second, third and fourth life with different owners.

Designed as a junior pick-up truck, the Oli has a hidden flatbed; lower the tailgate and a tough reinforced cargo bed is revealed, with a multitude of lashing points and loading options to take bicycles and the detritus of family life.

Citroen Oli concept electric car

‘It’s not back-to-basics, we say it’s back-to-right,’ says product chief Anne Laliron. ‘We reckon a vehicle of this type should weigh around one tonne and we think it could be sold for the cost of today’s B-segment superminis.

‘We’ve rigorously followed a virtuous circle: a smaller, lighter design means we only need a 40kWh battery, yet our calculations suggest it would have a range of 400km (250 miles).’

This is a compelling narrative and music to the ears of those of us who becry the spiralling excess of heavy electric SUVs. The Oli provides a glimpse of what the simpler, lighter EVs of tomorrow could look like: the French offspring of a Tonka toy and a Storm Trooper.

Read all our Citroen reviews

By Tim Pollard

Group digital editorial director, car news magnet, crafter of words