Citroën invents a cardboard car for a world without resources


LA PLAINE ST DENIS, France, Sept 29 (Reuters) – Imagine a resource-starved future world where automakers have to resort to replacing the metal in your car’s roof and bonnet with cardboard.

This is what Citroën has done with a new concept car designed in anticipation of a world without resources, using cardboard instead of steel for these parts.

It’s not ordinary cardboard, but a specialized honeycomb format reinforced with a plastic liner on each side that’s sturdy enough to lay on top without warping.

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It was developed in partnership with the German chemical giant BASF (BASFn.DE). This and a vertical windscreen designed to reduce the amount of glass needed and save weight give the Citroën “Oli” electric concept car the look of a futuristic SUV.

In Soviet times, a common and mistaken urban myth held that the Trabant, a small two-stroke engine car produced in the former East Germany, had a reinforced cardboard body – and if it rained enough loud, you could punch a hole in it.

In fact, the Trabant was made of “duroplast”, a plastic reinforced with recycled cotton waste from the former Soviet Union.

Citroën, part of the world’s No. 4 automaker Stellantis (STLA.MI), and BASF have managed to turn the popular legend into reality.

“It’s more than just a concept car like you’re used to,” Citroën’s director of future products, Anne Laliron, told Reuters. “It’s almost the expression of new ways of life.”

The designers of Dacia, Renault’s low-cost brand (RENA.PA), also tried their hand at this exercise by imagining the “Manifesto” concept car. Unveiled in mid-September, it also appears to have come out of a “Mad Max” movie, set in a post-apocalypse world where oil is worth more than gold.


Dacia’s off-roader is a stripped-down vehicle focused on the essentials, including a corkboard dashboard where you can pin a good old-fashioned paper road map in case there’s no signal for GPS navigation.

To account for the possible effects of climate change and component shortages, the Citroën Oli weighs less than 1 tonne (1,000 kg) and cannot exceed 110 kilometers (68 miles) per hour.

Wiring harnesses have been removed from the door panels – which have only eight pieces compared to an average of 35 in today’s cars – the key lock has returned and the dashboard uses cellphone information from the driver for communication or entertainment.

The windows open manually and the vertical windscreen – which also attenuates the impact of solar radiation inside the vehicle and thus reduces the need for air conditioning – requires the installation of a vent on the bonnet to recreate the effect of a windshield on the aerodynamics of the vehicle.

Oli is also designed to be recyclable and easy to repair so that it can last at least three generations, or 50 years.

“It’s something that will last, that we can fix, always keeping in mind that we used resources to make it,” Laliron said. “So we have to make it last as long as possible.”

Work on the concept car began in 2019 and came at a time plagued by raw material shortages caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

“It is clear that what we have experienced in recent years has further reinforced our intuition, our ambition,” said Laliron.

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Written by Nick Carey, edited by Ed Osmond

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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