April 25, 2006 12:08 PM PDT

A minicar for future urbanites

A three-wheeled vehicle produced by a group of European universities seeks to combine some of the best elements of a Mini Cooper, a motorcycle and a camp stove.

The Clever (compact low-emission vehicle for urban transport) is a three-wheeler designed for city driving. Like a micro-car, it is small--measuring only a meter wide, or close to 3 feet, narrower than regular cars--so it can fit into tight parking spots. Ultimately, the car may allow city designers to build narrower roads or better disperse traffic congestion.

Despite the small size, the designers have tried not to sacrifice that car feel, something the researchers said other similar prototype cars lacked. The roof provides about the same level of headroom as a standard car, and the frame has been strengthened to give more protection against accidents. It can carry two passengers and go from zero to 40 miles per hour in about seven seconds.

The car, though, tilts into turns for better cornering, like a motorcycle. The difference is that the tilting is controlled by the car's computer systems rather than the driver. And it runs on compressed natural gas, similar to many household appliances. The fuel consumption is equivalent to 108 miles per gallon, roughly the same as some tinkerers are getting with modified hybrid cars.

"The Clever vehicle is a tremendous leap forward in the development of vehicles for the 21st century," Jos Darling, senior lecturer in mechanical engineering at the University of Bath and one of the lead researchers on the project, said in a statement. "Making our vehicles smaller is a good solution to the relentless increase in traffic in our towns and cities."

With the high price of gas showing no signs of coming down, researchers at several universities are looking at new types of vehicles and sources of fuel for cars. Some of the ideas in the pipeline include on-demand jet travel in fuel-efficient planes and new types of diesel engines.

See more CNET content tagged:
vehicle, motorcycle, car, researcher, city

20 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
Hmm...
Well, it's a unique idea. But I do have a few concerns.

1. 1 meter wide - Doesn't exactly thrill me at the chance of a soccer mom SUV slamming into the side of me.

2. 1 passenger - at 1 meter wide, the passenger will have to ride behind you, a-la bobsled.

3. Compressed Natural Gas - can't be very safe if you're in an accident.

I guess we all could strap a propane tank to our butts, slap on some roller skates, and pull our friend (also on rollerskates) with a short rope to get the same effect. And better fuel mileage too!

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for innovation and increased fuel mileage, but I don't think we're ready for something this different yet. Europe does indeed have narrow roads and smaller cars that would make this design ideal. But with major highways I have to take to work, driving next to large SUV's and even larger Semi's, I'll look for something that will make me feel better when those big guys don't see me.
Posted by Xiibo (33 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yeah, not in America
This would only work inside planned communities where cars were relegated to garages lining the perimeter.

Oh, wait... there already is a solution for that... golf carts (battery powered = no emissions), segways, bicycle or walking.

Yeah, it's gonna need extendable wings so that when you get broadsided by an SUV you can glide to your destination.
Posted by TV James (680 comments )
Link Flag
That's why it is not for you
This car is designed for use in cities only. Not for competing with a Semi or full sized cars.
Posted by justdaven (309 comments )
Link Flag
But then again
But then again, how far will you be able to drive your gas guzzling overweight boulevarde soft riding one directional vehicle like a Chevy Suburban when gas prices hit between $5 and $10 a gallon?
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Link Flag
Hmm...
Well, it's a unique idea. But I do have a few concerns.

1. 1 meter wide - Doesn't exactly thrill me at the chance of a soccer mom SUV slamming into the side of me.

2. 1 passenger - at 1 meter wide, the passenger will have to ride behind you, a-la bobsled.

3. Compressed Natural Gas - can't be very safe if you're in an accident.

I guess we all could strap a propane tank to our butts, slap on some roller skates, and pull our friend (also on rollerskates) with a short rope to get the same effect. And better fuel mileage too!

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for innovation and increased fuel mileage, but I don't think we're ready for something this different yet. Europe does indeed have narrow roads and smaller cars that would make this design ideal. But with major highways I have to take to work, driving next to large SUV's and even larger Semi's, I'll look for something that will make me feel better when those big guys don't see me.
Posted by Xiibo (33 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yeah, not in America
This would only work inside planned communities where cars were relegated to garages lining the perimeter.

Oh, wait... there already is a solution for that... golf carts (battery powered = no emissions), segways, bicycle or walking.

Yeah, it's gonna need extendable wings so that when you get broadsided by an SUV you can glide to your destination.
Posted by TV James (680 comments )
Link Flag
That's why it is not for you
This car is designed for use in cities only. Not for competing with a Semi or full sized cars.
Posted by justdaven (309 comments )
Link Flag
But then again
But then again, how far will you be able to drive your gas guzzling overweight boulevarde soft riding one directional vehicle like a Chevy Suburban when gas prices hit between $5 and $10 a gallon?
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Link Flag
Hogwash
A car like this is just what the typical North American driver needs to see moving down the highway beside them. The Smart car, introduced to Canada with musch fanfare two years ago, disproved the misconception that small cars are unsafe: it received higher crash test ratings than many full-sized sedans and minivans. The hazard of using natural gas is negligible. Millions of people are already moving compressed gas safely on highways. Just think of the vehicles already fuelled with natural gas (a sizable fleet), the trucks hauling propane in their conspicuous semi-cylindrical tanks and the millions that find it necessary to refill the tanks for their barbecue. A production model would be higly beneficial
Posted by CB Reader (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Propane is not = Natural Gas
They are two different products.

What's needed is an electric motor on this car, it's too small for long travel but with an electric motor and a 60-100 mile operating radius it would provide the ideal commuter vehicle.

As for those Suburbans, has anyone noticted that countries already using large numbers of these kind of small cars are talking about banning the SUV behemoths from their downtown areas? It could happen here too.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
Hogwash
A car like this is just what the typical North American driver needs to see moving down the highway beside them. The Smart car, introduced to Canada with musch fanfare two years ago, disproved the misconception that small cars are unsafe: it received higher crash test ratings than many full-sized sedans and minivans. The hazard of using natural gas is negligible. Millions of people are already moving compressed gas safely on highways. Just think of the vehicles already fuelled with natural gas (a sizable fleet), the trucks hauling propane in their conspicuous semi-cylindrical tanks and the millions that find it necessary to refill the tanks for their barbecue. A production model would be higly beneficial
Posted by CB Reader (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Propane is not = Natural Gas
They are two different products.

What's needed is an electric motor on this car, it's too small for long travel but with an electric motor and a 60-100 mile operating radius it would provide the ideal commuter vehicle.

As for those Suburbans, has anyone noticted that countries already using large numbers of these kind of small cars are talking about banning the SUV behemoths from their downtown areas? It could happen here too.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
Reviving the dead?
That car looks surprisiingly like the Carver One.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.carver-europe.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.carver-europe.com/</a>

The Carver One idea has been around for a while (dig around, you will find pics of this thing dated as far back as 2003, even their own FAQ states its been available since then commercially).

I'ts interesting though to see it took all the hub-bub with high oil/gas prices to get it to actually move, but it would be nicer still to see C|net actually report on something new for a change.
Posted by FusedAndCondazed (26 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Reviving the dead?
That car looks surprisiingly like the Carver One.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.carver-europe.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.carver-europe.com/</a>

The Carver One idea has been around for a while (dig around, you will find pics of this thing dated as far back as 2003, even their own FAQ states its been available since then commercially).

I'ts interesting though to see it took all the hub-bub with high oil/gas prices to get it to actually move, but it would be nicer still to see C|net actually report on something new for a change.
Posted by FusedAndCondazed (26 comments )
Reply Link Flag
even better
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.commutercars.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.commutercars.com/</a>
Posted by mstick99 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The future is now!
Yea there are a lot of competing ideas out there but this one with the advanced cornering technology looks easy to drive and a winner! I think that this is the future of transportation and we should immediately began to change our mindsets(and lifestyles) to welcome these vehicles on the road.

Forget about your gas guzzling SUV. They will become dinosaurs once people realize that they are being gouged to death by oil companies and greedy poiticians with every purchase. I am seeing once great American auto companies slowly dying because of a lack of vision. So I hope that Americans began to wake up and smell the coffee here. We need to start thinking about our future and not only developing these types of cars, but getting people into them on our streets.
Posted by tetsuyo (50 comments )
Link Flag
even better
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.commutercars.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.commutercars.com/</a>
Posted by mstick99 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The future is now!
Yea there are a lot of competing ideas out there but this one with the advanced cornering technology looks easy to drive and a winner! I think that this is the future of transportation and we should immediately began to change our mindsets(and lifestyles) to welcome these vehicles on the road.

Forget about your gas guzzling SUV. They will become dinosaurs once people realize that they are being gouged to death by oil companies and greedy poiticians with every purchase. I am seeing once great American auto companies slowly dying because of a lack of vision. So I hope that Americans began to wake up and smell the coffee here. We need to start thinking about our future and not only developing these types of cars, but getting people into them on our streets.
Posted by tetsuyo (50 comments )
Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.