The huge wheels of Citroen’s radical 19_19 concept car, built to celebrate the marque’s 100th year, are likely to appear on new models during the 2020s.
“People are bored,’ said Citroen CEO Linda Jackson at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. “They need a new look, and with the big wheels you get a different posture. The biggest impact of electrification will be on SUVs”.
The 19_19 indicates a return to the more radical thinking that Citroen has been famous for, and while much of this car has been conceived for 2030, Jackson says “I only do concepts where I can test things.”
Among its defining characteristics are its high-riding shape and the massive, 30in wheels that deliver this, its full electric drive, the motor and battery packaged into a skateboard structure, its full autonomy – with the option to drive – and lounge-style seating arrangements.
“The 19_19 has high seating and next-generation tyres developed with Goodyear,” says design director Pierre Leclercq.
The freedom to repackage the car around a skateboard is allowing Citroen to experiment, the big wheels concept providing plenty of potential benefits. One is that the occupants ride higher without the need to build up the vehicle’s bodywork, while also providing plenty of ground clearance.
Narrow wheels are more aerodynamic, the frontal area of the exposed lower portion of the tyre much smaller, while the reduced width of the contact patch is to some extent compensated for by the patch’s greater length. Large wheels also allow for the installation of in-wheel motors, besides dramatically altering the proportions and stance of the car.
A drawback is the potential compromise of ride comfort – a major Citroen signature – which is why Goodyear was enlisted to help with their development. “They spent a lot of money on the concept,” says Leclerq. “The next five years is not just going to be an evolution – I want it to be more than that. We’re facing the biggest change in the car industry with the changes in technology.”
Citroen product chief Xavier Peugeot says that Citroen’s “next cars will challenge their class codes, as SUVs have done.”
Peugeot adds that 'it’s too early to explain the recipe,' but when asked about the benefits of using tall, narrower tyres, it says, “I agree. We need different silhouettes in the coming years.”