Three wheeler offers third way for city motorists

A prototype micro-car developed by scientists from all over Europe offered a glimpse of the future of urban motoring this week.

The CLEVER car

The CLEVER car

The three-wheeled vehicle is the product of a £1.5 million programme funded by the EU which saw nine partners from industry and research centres in Germany, France, Austria and the UK joining forces.

The Compact Low Emission Vehicle for Urban Transport (CLEVER) Car was on show at the University of Bath this week, where its hydraulics and tilting system were developed.

Somewhere between a motorbike and a mini, the vehicle protects the driver and passenger from the elements and provides enough storage space for a long trip or a dash to the shops.

CLEVER looks like a Sinclair C5 on steroids but unlike the doomed concept vehicle of the '80s looks likely to meet a real demand in the market.

Tony Trueman, a spokesman for the university, told edie: "It's obviously a concept that's of its time particularly as fuel prices rise and cities get ever-more congested.

"There is room for the driver and a passenger behind and there's also storage space for shopping just above the engine.

"It's reached the prototype stage and it's now ready for the car industry to say if it's interested in it.

"It's too soon for them to make a decision on whether this particular model will reach production but BMW were involved in its development so the potential is there."

"I've got a feeling this isn't the end of the exercise."

The one-metre wide vehicle is specially designed for cities and attempts to combine the safety of a micro-car and the manoeuvrability of a motorbike, while being more fuel-efficient and less polluting than other vehicles.

Using compressed natural gas (CNG) for fuel the CLEVER car produces around a third of the emissions of a standard family hatchback, making it immune to London's congestion charge.

Matt Barker and Ben Drew, research officers at the University of Bath's Centre for Power Transmission and Motion Control, developed a novel tilting chassis concept to keep the vehicle stable in corners.

The vehicle controls the amount of tilt automatically, unlike on a motorcycle where the rider controls how far to tilt the vehicle.

"The CLEVER vehicle is a tremendous leap forward in the development of vehicles for the 21st century," said Dr Jos Darling, senior lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bath, one of the leaders of the UK-based research.

"Making our vehicles smaller is a good solution to the relentless increase in traffic in our towns and cities. The advent of micro cars was a first step, but with its manoeuvrability and narrowness, the CLEVER vehicle is the ultimate in the search for a small vehicle to get around cities like Bath and London.

"The fact that it has a stylish design, can carry a passenger, is not open to the weather and is as high as a conventional car, will mean it will be much more popular with motorists than previous novel city vehicles.

"It costs less to run, is quieter and is less polluting, and this will make it popular with environmentalists. Its strengthened safety frame makes it very safe for the driver in accidents.

"We think the CLEVER vehicle is the way forward in city motoring and are proud that the University of Bath is at the heart of a European project to bring it about."

Sam Bond



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