The prototype of a revolutionary new type of vehicle only one metre wide specially designed for cities has been developed by a team of European scientists. The vehicle combines the safety of a micro-car and the manoeuvrability of a motorbike, while being more fuel-efficient and less polluting than other vehicles.
The CLEVER (Compact Low Emission Vehicle for Urban Transport) vehicle is a £1.5 million collaborative project which has involved nine European partners from industry and research, including the University of Bath
The three-year international project has produced a tilting three-wheeled vehicle that is fully enclosed and has seats for the driver and a passenger. Its strengthened frame protects the driver in a crash and the vehicle has a top speed of approximately 60 mph (about 100 kph) and an acceleration of 0-40 mph (60 kph) in seven seconds.
At just over three feet (1 metre) wide, it is 20 inches (0.5 metres) narrower than a micro-car, and three feet narrower than a medium sized conventional car. This reduced width means more efficient parking bays, and the possibility of narrower lanes for such vehicles.
The vehicle is different from previous attempts to create a small urban vehicle in that it is fully enclosed in a metal framework, is stylishly designed and is much safer. Its roof is as high as conventional cars, and it carries one passenger, who sits behind the driver.
Yesterday’s UK launch of the car, held at the University of Bath, has resulted in coverage in the national media (see Related Links – the BBC site has video footage from the 6 O’Clock news bulletin last night).
German, French, British and Austrian organisations, including BMW, began work on the project in December 2002 completed it in March this year. It is funded by the European Union.
Partners include: the Technische Universitaet Berlin in Berlin, the Institut Francais Du Petrole in Vernaison near Lyon, and the Institut Fuer Verkehrswesen – Universitaet Fuer Bodenkultur, in Vienna.
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 hydraulic active tilt system is electronically controlled to keep the vehicle balanced at all speeds while maintaining car-like steering throughout. The vehicle has an aluminium frame and plastic body work.
The work at Bath focused on the design and simulation of the vehicle chassis and control of the hydraulic tilting system. Cooper-Avon Tyres Ltd worked with the University of Bath to achieve these goals.
Running on compressed natural gas, the vehicle would not only help preserve stocks of oil but would emit about a third of the carbon dioxide than conventional family cars. Because it does not run on petrol or diesel, it would not be liable for the congestion charge in London, or any other city where the charge is likely to be adopted. Its fuel consumption is equivalent to 108 miles per gallon (or 2.6 litres per 100 kms) with petrol, a third of most cars.
“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, who is in charge of its part of the project, with Dr Geraint Owen.
“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.”
Questions and answers on technical details of the CLEVER car
Why did you choose CNG for the fuel? This was chosen because of the reduced CO2 levels compared to gasoline or diesel based fuels. One of the main aims of the project is to produce a low emission vehicle.
How much fuel will the Clever car carry and what is the expected distance it could travel on one fill? There are two removable cylinders, each with a volume of six litres. Its range is 125 miles (200km).
Who is supplying the CNG cylinders? The CNG cylinders, valves, connectors are supplied by WEH GAS Technology GmbH, Germany. The cylinders are made from carbon fibre, and are derived from breathing apparatus. The tanks are removable so users can either exchange empty cylinders for new at any shopping outlet, or fill up at a regular gas station.
Where did you source the engine? The engine is manufactured by Rotax and is used in the BMW C1 scooter, but has an increased capacity of 218cc. The conversion to natural gas was performed by Institut Francais du Petrole (IFP). The engine was selected because of its good volumetric efficiency and because it is technologically advanced for such a small engine.
How are you getting the fuel compressed? CNG is already available at service stations throughout Europe – the supply infrastructure is being established – for example Germany has 370 filling stations, Sweden has 31, Italy has 376. In areas where there is no supply existing exhausted bottles can be exchanged for new ones at regular filling stations, supermarkets or whoever is willing to stock them. Exhausted bottles can be collected and charged by the supplier.
Are you able to name some of the partners involved in the project please? Further information about this project, incouding details of the other project partners, can be found by visiting the CLEVER Car website , whose link is in the Related Links section.
From University of Bath