IEA: Transportation Will Require a Broad Portfolio of Fuel Technologies
New Car Sales in Japan Hit 30-Year Low; Sales of Minicars Rising

CLEVER: A Three-Wheeled, Natural Gas, Two-Seat Urban Vehicle

Clever1
The CLEVER

A European research consortium is wrapping up a three-year project to develop a three-wheeled, natural-gas powered micro-car: CLEVER (Compact Low Emission VEhicle for URban Transport).

CLEVER, a €3.3 million (US$3.9 million) effort, is an enclosed two-seater that combines the safety of a microcar, and the maneuverability of a motorcycle, while being less polluting than other vehicles as it runs on compressed natural gas.

Its strengthened frame will protect the driver in a crash and the vehicle will have a top speed of approximately 50 mph.

The 230cc BMW engine—modified by Institut Français du Pétrole (IFP) to use natural gas—produces 12.5 kW (17 hp) of power and maximum torque of 15.5 Nm at 6,300 rpm.

IFP increased the swept volume of the engine cylinders, allowing the engine to run more slowly and bringing several benefits. The lower engine speed both reduces emissions and lowers engine friction, which enhances fuel efficiency. It also produces less noise. The increased displacement contributes to the higher torque, providing the level of acceleration needed in urban traffic.

Fuel consumption is estimated to be 2.4 liters/100 km gasoline equivalent (98 mpg US), with 59.5 g/km of CO2 emissions.

Fuel_tanks
The fuel tank system.

The compressed natural gas is stored in two removable cylinders that are custom designed for ease of handling and refilling. The two connected gas bottles provide a range of approximately 150 km (93 miles).

A problem with three-wheel vehicles with a symmetrical wheel layout is the tipping moment when cornering, which cannot be controlled at high speeds if the vehicle has a short wheelbase.

To solve this problem the vehicle’s center of gravity can be moved towards the center of the corner, for example by angling the complete vehicle—just as a motorcycle does when it corners.

This is the approach used by “tilting three-wheelers”—and there have been two basic technical methods to achieve it:

  1. Change the camber of the two parallel wheels (front or rear) with or without tilting the vehicle.

  2. Angle the vehicle around a pivot relative to the axis of the two parallel wheels.

Vehicles that use the first concept have been around since the forties (Ernst Neumann-Neander 1948) and the method has regularly been used for concept cars (Mercedes Benz F300 “Life Jet” 1997).

Vehicles that use the second concept include, for example, the “GM Lean Machine” dating from 1983, the “Carver” from Vandenbrink and various scooter-type vehicles from Honda, including the Honda Gyro/Honda Stream dating from 1984. There has been a BMW concept on this basis in the BMW Museum in Munich since 1991.

Clever2
The cabin-tilting CLEVER. The rear section, with the engine, remains upright, while the cabin tilts.

The CLEVER vehicle is a cabin tilter, with the system designed by the University of Bath. The cabin with the front wheel is connected to the power unit and the two rear wheels by a pivot bolt. The rotary movement of the cabin is produced by two hydraulic cylinders (actuators) that are installed between the cabin and the power unit. The actuators create the rotary angle of the cabin of +/-45° relative to the vertical power unit.

The hydraulic system consists of a pump that is driven direct by the engine and a pressure accumulator that maintains the oil pump if the pump suffers a defect. The two single-action hydraulic cylinders are controlled by an electromagnetically actuated valve.

The signals for the hydraulic control valve come from a freely programmable computer that processes the input signals from a sensor system, such as speed, tilt angle of the cabin and lateral acceleration.

CLEVER was funded by the European Commission with the Growth Programme of the Fifth Framework Programme. Partners included:

  • Technical University of Berlin, Institute for Land and Sea Transport (TUB), Berlin, Germany
  • BMW
  • Cooper-Avon Tyres Ltd, Melksham, Great Britain
  • ARC Leichtmetall Kompetenzzentrum Ranshofen GmbH (LKR), Ranshofen, Austria
  • IFP
  • TAKATA-PETRI AG, Berlin, Germany
  • University of Bath, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Institute for Power Transmission and Motion Control, Bath, Great Britain
  • Universität für Bodenkultur Vienna, Institute of Transport, Vienna, Austria
  • WEH GmbH, Illertissen, Germany

(A hat-tip to Wolf Faust!)

Resources:

Comments

rexis

looks like a motorbike with an attached fuel tank.

Does CNG really good as car fuel? I kinda like the idea of homemade biogas system(including H2S filter and CO2 wash) and you make your own fuel.

Alfred

That tricycle reminds me the ecomobile. It looks too furturistic. Regardless of its power source, I'm skeptical about its widespread possibility. It seems the public perception about safety is directly proportional to the weight and bulkiness.

Lucas

Besides they want far too much money for it. The Science channel showed it last night and they said $50K Canadian. If they want to sell these things they will have to get the price down.

evilkraut

Well, according to "Spiegel" this vehicle is developed for technical and material study only, there are no plans for serial production yet. If a market demand shows up they "might" bring it to maturity phase. The price will be then around €9.500 about $11.128 US.
(Price source: The Guardian UK)

But there is definitely no market for such a vehicle. Too slow for a fun racer, too limited cruising radius, no storage room at all plus a stupid gas filling system which could be from the sixties.
For a 21st Century lightweight threewheeler I would prefer an e-engine. However, the hole "project" is nothing else as tax money burning.
No market, unemployable for mass use - just senseless and disappointing. (European SOCIALIST Union pumps 3.3 Mio. taxpayer money into that cra..wheeler)

Daniel Johnston

A bit less of the gung-ho supremacist Yankee nonsense, please.

Mike Weindl

This vehicle is not built for being a "FUN RACER", the idea is to drive it in the city or for commuting where it's speed is probably more than enough. I can very well
imagine that in europe (why "socialist"?) this car could
be a success. The two seater SMART which you can see everywhere in Europe's cities since a bid more than a decade, shows that "socialist" europeans are maybe a bid
more open for new ideas.

Lucas

I wouldn't pay $5,000 for it in it's present form. Maybe with a diesel hybrid in it.

little shop

There is a market. The 'Carver' is a very similar vehicle selling for 30000 euros or so in europe. The Carver has more hp but its 3x the projected price. It would be a niche vehicle but $12000 would sell. There are many bikes in that price range.

Daniel Johnston

I actually quite fancy a wee car like this, I'd just rather it was electric. The reva's not bad, but 40mph isn't enough to go on a dual carraigeway. Still this would get me to my family and back, which is all I'm really after. Just not sure the Co2 saving is enough to justify it.

AndyB

Keep it under US$10,000, and I'd buy it tomorrow. A perfect commuter vehicle.

mike57

Two seats, weather protection, luggage space(small!), urban and suburban speed capable and half the road plan area of a small european car in a body shell that you would want to be seen in.
If a possible production version carries all that over
it would sell.

Omar

I agree with Lucas. I believe there is a market for vehicles like the sporty "Carver" in Europe as well as those looking for "greener" alternatives for the daily commute around town. Bottom line...I'd buy one for around $10,000 - $12,000 USD.

Ray Kemp

There is an overwhelming need for a vehicle of this nature here in the United States. The market, with the proper introduction and consumer education, is enormous. The Trivette ll is one example of what is currently available, although it is only sold as a kit. I think the ideal design would have a little more speed so it could operate on major highways and with the proper aerodynamic design does not require tilting. Also, the safety feature are definitley nice but they seem a bit extreme when you consider SUV roll over, convertibles, pick up trucks and other less safe vehicles. These vehicles are going to be more manuverable. I would love an opportunity to promote the development of this type of vehicle.

Capo

This car isn't any advance from what we're driving it should be more comfortable, have more space for personal stuff and maybe another chair. Remenber that a green car for beeing successful needs to be useful.

kevin ward

there's defintely a market for vehicles like this especially in cities like London that use congestion charging. This vehicle would be zero rated. A safe covered vehicle that could deal with the vagaries of the London weather and is safe would sell. The price needs to be around £5K though-not much more.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)