Test drive in Citroën Oli: How affordable e-mobility works

For years, our cars have become bigger, heavier, stronger – and more expensive. Electromobility reinforces this trend. Instead of 20,000 euros, prices for everyday family cars suddenly start at more than 30,000 euros.

Citroën is now trying to turn the screw back. With Oli, the French demonstrate how designers and engineers imagine an affordable everyday car for generation E. And instead of just putting it on a trade fair stand, they send the car on its maiden voyage through the center of Frankfurt.

Honey, they shrunk the lobster

The fact that this potential everyone’s car is an absolute eye-catcher in the evening traffic of the main metropolis is mainly due to its unconventional design: Oli looks like a Hummer in the pocket of a vest. The fact that its shape resembles the famous giant pick-up is not just a whim of the designers. The angled lines are also due to technical reasons. For large parts of the body, it is made of cardboard that is reinforced with a honeycomb structure and therefore cannot be bent. And the windows are straight, so the car doesn’t heat up as much, and the air conditioning doesn’t need as much.

The basic idea behind the concept: Because the battery is the most expensive and heaviest component in an electric car, it must be particularly small. To still achieve a large range, the Oli must not weigh much. And because carbon would have blown the budget, cardboard must be used. But don’t worry, the material is just as strong and you can literally climb onto Oli’s roof for a picnic.

Modesty in driving

The other factor, besides the weight, is the handling. Therefore, the car not only weighs exactly 1000 kilos, but also only drives at a speed of 110 km/h. With a battery capacity of 40 kWh, you can travel up to 400 kilometers. The price, which can be as low as 25,000 euros, will also justify not driving fast.

On the trip through Frankfurt, where you can only go at a walking pace past the Festhalle, through the station district and along the banks of the Main, the engine power is nevertheless completely sufficient. After all, the Tesla is not faster in the next lane – even though its battery is almost three times the size, its engines are five times as powerful and its top speed is twice as high.

Sponges instead of glove box

The decor also bears witness to the struggle against costs and kilos – but without the stay becoming insolent. On the contrary: the seats produced in the 3D printer are not only particularly light and easy to assemble, but also quite comfortable. The inner lining, which is made of the same material as sneaker soles, insulates well, dampens well – and looks good too. The wild mushroom-inspired knobs on the dashboard are better for storing small items than any glove box. And instead of a complicated infotainment system, Oli simply uses the smartphone. All content is shown on the display under the windscreen, while the music plays from Bluetooth speakers.

All of this feels more mature and suitable for everyday use than you’d expect from a budget car. And the platform under the one-off unit also serves series models like the electric C4. That’s why Oli is anything but a fun city car: If the body didn’t creak so much and the heat had more power, you could even dare to drive it to Paris. That’s less than 600 kilometers from Frankfurt and should be doable in eight hours with two charging stops.

Fazint: Who, if not Citroën?

However, it is unlikely that long-distance travel will be possible. Because the oil will probably never go into series production. But almost 75 years ago, the French and others showed how mobility could be made affordable for everyone. And what works one time might work another time. In any case, Citroën does not lack the right ideas.

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