Nine European partners (including BMW) representing the industrial and research sectors have done something clever. Working with the University of Bath, the collaboration has given birth to a new kind of vehicle for crowded, polluted, urban driving environments. At one-meter wide, incorporating the maneuverability of a toyota or a motorcycle – including the ability to tilt – and featuring the high safety rating of a Smart car, the three-wheeled prototype they developed is indeed “CLEVER,” i.e., “Compact Low Emission Vehicle for Urban Transport.” The vehicle runs on compressed natural gas putting out about a third of the carbon dioxide emissions of the good old family sedan. The project cost £1.5 million and could easily change the face of city driving forever.
|Three wheelers with cabs that tilt
on corners, such as the CLEVER
(pictured), and the Carver One,
should be on the road by 2009.
For the past three years the designers and engineers have worked on CLEVER, which has seats for a driver and passenger (one behind the other) in a fully enclosed cabin with a strengthened frame and full roll cage for crash protection. Top speed is 60 mph with acceleration from zero to 40 in seven seconds. In width, CLEVER comes in three feet slimmer than a mid-size sedan and 20 inches less than a micro car, making it one of the most potentially parking-efficient vehicles the driving public has ever seen.
The metal skeleton of the CLEVER tilts, with the twin rear wheels remaining upright. The hydraulic active tilt system knows what degree of lean is needed around curves and keeps the vehicle balanced and stable at all times. The driver just steers normally and the car does the rest. Power is derived from a modified BMW C1 scooter engine by Rotax upped to 218 cc. The selection of compressed natural gas as the fuel frees CLEVER from congestion charges in cities like London while returning about 108 miles per gallon fuel efficiency. The natural gas is stored in two, six-liter, carbon fiber, removable tanks that combined give the car a range of 125 miles.
Direct competition for the CLEVER, which may become commercially available later this year, is represented by the gasoline-powered Carver One, already on sale in the UK and powered by a 600 cc, turbocharged, four cylinder. Also featuring an enclosed cabin, the Carver One banks around curves in the same fashion, does zero to 60 in 8.2 seconds, and has a top speed of 115 mph. It’s just a shade larger than the CLEVER with a width of 1.3 meters. The price tag at your new car dealer for the Carver reads £27,654.
Both the CLEVER and the Carver represent a significant change in thinking for what constitutes urban transport. And both are indicative of the increasing momentum behind the move toward personal transportation as represented by a “city” car; smaller, more efficient vehicles with a limited driving range designed specifically for crowded urban conditions. For example, some 30,000 Americans immediately stepped forward and put down their deposit on the country’s first Smart cars to be delivered early in 2008. Can a vehicle like CLEVER, with its condensed natural gas fuel system and small profile be far behind? While some legal authorities may be confused (is it a car or is it a motorcycle?) drivers aren’t confused in the least. Fuel costs too much. Parking is a nightmare. The environment is endangered. The time is ripe for something different and if nothing else, CLEVER is different.