Citroen's cardboard car

We’ve written before about the environmental phenomenon that is cardboard. Over 70% of commercially used cardboard is successfully recycled. That means it’s one of the most eco-friendly materials you can use for your small business. That’s why we were excited to see an experimental concept car by French carmaker Citroen, which features cardboard in its panels. The 2024 concept, called the Oli, is lightweight and battery-powered, yet still spry enough to reach highway speeds. In celebration of Earth Day, let’s take a look at this unusual idea that just might be crazy enough to work.

Deconstructing the Oli: The basics

The Oli weights only about 2,200 pounds–easily half of what the average modern EV weighs. It’s powered by a 40 kWh battery. When fully charged, the car would be able to make it about 250 miles without needing to stop. However, that stop would be a short one, as the Oli’s battery should be able to charge to 80% in 23 minutes, according to Citroen.

Despite being battery-powered, the Oli can actually get up to 68 mph. Due to its construction, it’s probably not something you’d want to take on a highway full of metal-paneled car, but you could feasibly escape the zombie apocalypse in it.

Cardboard construction? It’s possible

Yes, the Oli’s roof and hood are made of cardboard—but this isn’t the same stuff that pizza boxes are made of. Instead, the cardboard has been formed into a honeycomb-like sandwich structure and wedged between reinforcing fiberglass. The panels are coated in Elastoflex® Polyurethane resin to add an additional layer of toughness, and then an additional layer of Elastocoat®, which is often used on parking decks or loading ramps. Finally, the car is painted with water-resistant paint to ensure your car won’t start melting in a downpour. At the end of the day, you’ve got a material that’s extremely light, strong, and rigid, and can be stood on by an average-sized human without buckling.

A unique design

Some might call Citron’s cardboard car design “funky,” while others might call it straight-up weird. In any case, the boxy design is certainly unique. Oddest of all its flat, 90-degree windshield. Though this will likely be terrible for the car’s aerodynamics, Citroen says that the flat glass is cheaper, helping keep costs down. It also helps reduce solar radiation, and thus reduces the power demand on the Oli’s modest air conditioning system by about 17% (again, according to Citron).

A minimalistic interior

On the inside, the Oli is minimal and clever, made of 100% recycled thermoplastics. Features include an actual cork dashboard where you can pin a paper road map in the event you lose your GPS signal; manual door locks that open with a key; and windows that are literally rolled by hand. Though these analog details might be a pain to someone who has only known digital dials and buttons, we think they’re small sacrifices to make for a vehicle this unique. Besides, you won’t be completely without modern amenities—the dashboard offers a handy place to prop up your mobile phone.

Room in the back

At this point, the Oli might be starting to sound just a few steps above a golf cart. And that’s…probably fair. However, a small counterpoint: a golf cart doesn’t have a pickup bed in the back. With a few minor adjustments to the rear window and headrests, the Oli does. While it’s a modest 2 feet by 3.5 feet, it’s big enough to accommodate a small loveseat or a Christmas tree. If you need additional storage, there’s an enclosed space under the truck bed.

Is it really recyclable?

Typically, parts made from different materials—like cardboard and fiberglass—aren’t accepted by most standard recycling centers. But Citroen says that lightly damaged parts could be taken back to Citroen, repaired, and installed into a new vehicle. The company stated that it envisions each Oli as living several lives, with new parts, colors, and accessories each time. Ultimately, Citroen says it wants each Oli to be operable for 50 years.

Final takeaway: Citroen’s cardboard car is an amazing idea

Since this is a concept car, it’s unlikely to ever really hit the road. But in today’s atmosphere of doom and gloom, we’re happy to see a company that’s being proactive. The problems humans are now facing will take innovation, creativity, and resourcefulness to tackle. In our humble opinion, all of those concepts are demonstrated by this neat little car.

SSI Packaging is a family-owned packaging supply company based in Richmond, N.C. We provide businesses large and small with packaging materials, printers, labeling equipment, and more. To learn more about us, click here!

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