28 April 2004

Tired of shaping the motor industry through legislation alone, Brussels eurocrats are tackling the problems of inner-city congestion and rising pollution levels head-on with their own unique vision of tomorrow’s city car.

Dubbed the Compact Low Emission Vehicle for Urban Transport – or Clever – the vehicle is the fruit of a £1.5 million EU-funded project to create a three-wheeled micro car, mixing the advantages of a motorbike with the superior safety and ease-of-use of a car. At its heart is the Rotax-built four-stroke engine from BMW’s C1, bored out to 218cc and converted to run on compressed natural gas. Mated to the C1’s CVT gearbox, this should help the 350kg Clever hit a top speed of 50mph and stretch economy to a projected 188mpg in equivalent petrol terms. Like all LPG vehicles, it’s exempt from London’s Congestion Charge.

The engine and transmission are housed in a cradle between the rear wheels, along with a pair of carbonfibre CNG fuel tanks. Owners can refuel at service stations or remove the tanks and swap them for off-the-shelf canisters at any participating retailer – a bonus in the UK, where CNG outlets are still relatively scarce.

The interior seats two, pillion-style, in a rigid safety frame and aerodynamic, cocoon-shaped body developed with help from BMW. The chassis automatically tilts into bends and has been designed by mechanical engineers from the University of Bath.

A prototype of the 1m-wide city car, which is tipped to cost £6500 in production form, will be completed by 2006.

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