Citroën "oli" Radical - Inner space: The Challenging frontier
29.09.2022: INNER SPACE: THE CHALLENGING FRONTIER
Vehicle designers always reach for the stars when it comes to interior package, but so often surrender to the
desire to add bigger screens, taller armrests, swooping panels, plusher seats and so on. This adds ma
INNER SPACE: THE CHALLENGING FRONTIER
Vehicle designers always reach for the stars when it comes to interior package, but so often surrender to the
desire to add bigger screens, taller armrests, swooping panels, plusher seats and so on. This adds materials,
weight, and cost.
“We decided to create as much space and light as we could inside oli with as little infrastructure as possible, and to maximise the use of sustainable materials,” says Leclercq. “It’s not as easy as you think because you need to make a cabin comfortable, safe and strong, and there are certain pieces of technology customers expect. We took
inspiration from other forms of space efficient product design, where minimal is better – like a smart phone or hi-fi
system. After all, how many buttons, dials, and screens do you really need?”
Beam Up Front:
Instead of a full dashboard with multiple screens and hidden computers, oli features a single symmetrical beam
running across the width of the vehicle from which hangs the steering column and wheel on one side, a smart
phone dock, and five clearly identified toggle switches for the air conditioning system in the centre.
Notably, 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.
This is ideal for powering devices or even plugging in your coffee maker while waiting for the kids to come out
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.
Sitting behind and below the beam is the “sofa” made of BASF Elastollan® – a bright orange, recyclable 3Dprinted
Thermoplastic PolyUrethane (TPU) storage shelf featuring flexible “mushrooms” which keep objects like
coffee cups or soda cans in place.
Plug And Play:
In oli, all the infotainment and communication you need is brought into the vehicle on your personal
smartphone, which is docked in the central socket on the beam.
Once plugged in, phone information and apps are merged with essential vehicle data like speed and charge level
This is made visible via a ‘Smartband’ system, which projects information across the width of the lower
“Because your smartphone has more computing power than many vehicles, we decided to adopt a different
approach to infotainment,” adds Sabas. “We all carry our phones and use apps for navigation and entertainment
already, so we saw a chance to save the expense, duplication and weight of integrated systems. Just bring your own
device and plug in.”
The same approach is used for in-vehicle audio. Each end of the beam is hollow and cylindrical Bluetooth
loudspeakers can be ‘docked’ to provide high-quality sound for listening to podcasts or classic Sci-fi TV themes
on the move. In fact, 250g of weight has been saved by eliminating the usual audio system alone.
Because the speakers are removable, sounds can be enjoyed when parked anywhere and everywhere. Hanging
them on hooks on the rails in the pick-up bed outside the vehicle means you can show off your latest playlist
with excellent sound quality while enjoying al fresco dining or partying on the beach.
Having looked at several solutions for operating the HMI, the team came up with the unusual idea of using a
joystick from a professional modular gamepad, mounted on oli’s neat steering wheel.
“The gamepad joystick works really well – it’s easy to control and is a great example of how we can transfer
solutions from familiar non-automotive applications to make them work in the context of a vehicle,” says Sabas.
The steering column incorporates a rotating shift lever coupled with the vehicle’s “start stop” button, while
smaller stalks operate the vehicle’s lights and indicators.
Instead of bulky automotive armchairs to block out the light and fill the cabin, oli’s space-efficient front seats
use 80% less parts than the seats in an equivalent SUV – just 8 rather than 37.
Bright orange front seats are made up of strong tubular frames onto which are mounted a comfortable base
cushion covered in textile made from 100% recycled polyester which is 100% recyclable.
Innovative 3D-printed mesh backrests feature an integrated headrest and are inspired by modern office
furniture. They are slim but highly supportive, comfortable and rigid exactly where they need to be.
Co-created with BASF, they are made from lightweight, 100% recyclable Thermoplastic PolyUrethane (TPU) and
the material has been covered with an orange coating to ensure theylook and feel inviting. The mesh backrests
amplify the feeling of space and light inside the vehicle – key contributors to occupant comfort and wellbeing.
Rear seat passengers can use the backrest’s exposed tubular frame to mount accessories – for example a small
tablet device powered via a USB socket, hooks for hanging a tote bag, a cupholder frame, a magazine net like in
an airliner, or a small tray for the kids to enjoy a snack on the move.
In keeping with Citroën’s commitment to comfort, front seats attach to the floor through flexible, recyclable
TPU isolation rings that absorb road imperfections and vibration and echo the brand’s acclaimed “Progressive
“The construction of the front seats is completely understandable,” explains Sabas. “They are easy to dismantle,
remove and recycle when you want to change the colour for example. Nothing is covered up, and there are no
hidden structures - they are as straightforward as they look and a perfect example of how functionality and purity
drove every element of the design.”
Equally comfortable individual rear seats are made from similar materials and the backrests fold flat to extend
the rear load bay floor. Roof mounted circular TPU headrests float above each backrest and fold up into the roof
On each side of the vehicle below the rear seats, and accessible when rear doors are open, is a discreet storage
compartment for a first aid kit.
A storage console sits neatly in the space between the individual rear seats. Like the ‘sofa’, this orange,
recyclable soft 3D-printed TPU component features flexible “mushrooms” to hold items in place. Notably, all
interior BASF TPU parts can be recycled together, which is a further step towards sustainable mono-materiality
as an element of the Life Cycle Assessment.
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.
A large, open storage net is inserted between the inner and outer panels of the front doors, and an orange
armrest pad covered in 100% recycled and recyclable polyester textile is affixed directly to a horizontal line on
the panel. Opening the front doors is easy, thanks to a recyclable pull toggle presented through the panel, and
directly connected to the mechanism. Screws and fixings used in the doors and seats are interchangeable which
further reduces complexity.
Performance Under Foot:
Instead of 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
“This high grade, high performance material is usually found in the world of sport,” boasts Pierre Leclercq. “It is used in running tracks, bicycle saddles and even in the soles of well-known running shoes because of its spring and
cushioning properties which can ‘boost’ performance and comfort on the track.”
The floor is also covered with a highly elastic and waterproof coating and can be easily hosed clean. Recyclable
TPU “drain plugs” in the floor make it stress-free to remove sand and seaweed or mud and mulch after a hot day
at the beach or a wet day trekking through the forest.
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.
Overall cost of ownership will be low, but 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 be 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.
1.IMPETUS 2.AMBITION 3.INGENUITY 4.MISSION
With oli, Citroën is on a mission to convey serious messages about the future of affordable, sustainable and
enjoyable family mobility along with the future of the brand itself:
“We took a risk with Ami, and we are taking a risk with oli because we need to push creativity for production,” says
Pierre Leclercq. “There’s no sense in proposing cool materials or designs that will never influence future production
vehicles. That’s why the inclusion of the new logo on oli is significant, because just as you will see elements of its design and technology in future models, the new interpretation of the Citroën badge will be our welcoming new
“We have a broad customer base because we offer personal mobility from AMI to the C5-X, and not everyone may
be ready to accept that you don’t need certain things,” says Laurence Hansen. “So while we’re not going to change
everything overnight, Citroën wants to engage in a discussion, to ask what constitutes enough, and to demonstrate
how we can do the right thing and deliver on our mission to bring responsible, affordable and joyful mobility to
Vincent Cobée recognises that a happy future depends on reforming rather than adjusting the way we spend,
choose, consume, move, pollute, discard and think:
“The automotive industry is not immune from the revolutions challenging every other industry as we face up to
the issues created by our abundance of consumption, and Citroën is walking the talk to prove there are
unconventional ways of changing that aren’t boring or punitive. Ami is a great example of that, and we’re proud
of its success as a non-conformist mobility reality for today.
With its clever thinking and messages of purity and doing the right thing, Citroën oli - our ‘lab on wheels’- shows
how we can inspire future families. oli is striking and unconventional – but we’re Citroën, and we understand you
don’t get noticed for making a bland statement.
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.”
- Citroen also photos
29.09.2022 / MaP
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