Citroen challenged tyre giant Goodyear to come up with tall and narrow wheels for the Citroen 19_19, an all-electric SUV concept designed to celebrate the French carmaker’s 100th birthday and showcase styling and technology that could underpin its future.
It wanted the end result to appear as though the wheels were independent from the body of the all-wheel-drive SUV, and that passengers were being borne along by a car that appears to fly over the road on independent spheres. Citroen dubbed its concept a “UFO in the automotive sector.”
What Goodyear delivered has been called a revolutionary hybrid design, where the rubber tyre is sealed not inside the alloy wheel rim, but outside it, creating what Citroen calls “seamless continuity between the rim and the tyre.”
Further, the Goodyear design allows Citroen’s special centenary logo on the hub of each of the four 30-inch wheels to remain horizontal at all times, whether the car is standing still or on the move.
Further still, both Citroen and Goodyear say the wheel-tyre hybrid improves “acoustic comfort” for passengers, where less tyre roar makes its way into the cabin. The wheels are 930mm wide and shod with 255/30 R30 rubber.
The huge wheels and wheelarches move independently of the main body, with markers displaying the amount of suspension travel on rough terrain.
Sensors help the 19_19 Concept ‘pre-read’ the road ahead and adjust the suspension accordingly, while cameras enable autonomous driving.
The 19_19 concept is 4655mm long, 2240mm wide, 1600mm high, and has a 3100mm wheelbase. It follows the Ami One study car revealed at the Geneva show in March. Elements of both concepts could feature on a new Citroen hybrid due in 2021.
In the 19_19, a 100kWh battery pack returns a theoretical range of about 800km. A wireless induction charger under the car’s floor allows the concept’s battery pack to be topped up on the move from roads fitted with the same technology. On roads without it, Citroen says 600km can be recovered from quick charge stations in 20 minutes.
Two electric motors – one on each axle – deliver 340kW and 800Nm of torque, for a 0-100km/h time of five seconds and a top speed of 200km/h.
The exterior design has several unconventional features: an absence of bumpers at the front or rear, as well as rear-hinged doors and exposed axles housing the electric motors. Full-length LED headlights and tail-lights are more recognisable elements.
Inside, the concept features three types of seat: a thick-padded, single seat for the driver, a chaise lounge in the front passenger area, and a two-seat sofa in the rear.
The latter is backed by elastic strings designed to look like Citroen’s logo, also allowing passengers to retrieve items from the boot.
The striking purple-and-pink colour scheme used on most of the surfaces is joined by a white, marble-effect central storage pillar and steering wheel.
Citroen says real marble would be too heavy, but the resin material has a similar appearance that can also be shaped into buttons and controls – the gear selector being the most notable example.
The dashboard features a head-up display that incorporates augmented reality, while a clear opening in the front of the car lets light into the footwell and helps brighten the interior.
Autonomous mode activates the voice-operated ‘Hello Citroen’ system, which slides up from underneath the dashboard.