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Press Release 8.4.04

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New vehicle only one metre wide designed for cities

A revolutionary new type of vehicle only one metre wide and specially designed to drive in cities is being developed by a team of European scientists.

View an animation of 'CLEVER' vehicle »

Q&As on technical details »


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.

Side view of new  vehicle

The CLEVER (Compact Low Emission Vehicle for Urban Transport) vehicle is a £1.5 million collaborative project involving nine European partners from industry and research and part of which is under development at the University of Bath’s Centre for Power Transmission and Motion Control.

The aim is to produce a stylish tilting three-wheeled vehicle that is fully enclosed and has seats for the driver and a passenger. Its strengthened frame will protect the driver in a crash and the vehicle will have a top speed of approximately 50 mph.

At just over three feet (1 metre) wide, it is 20 inches (0.5 metres) less than a micro-car, and three feet less 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. A prototype CLEVER vehicle will be built as part of this project and, if put into production, it should be cheaper than a conventional car (around £6,500).

Front view of new  vehicle

Matt Barker and Ben Drew, research officers from the University of Bath’s Centre for Power Transmission and Motion Control, are working on 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 and keeps the vehicle upright at low speeds and allows car-like steering at high speeds (motorcycles have subtle but important differences). The work focuses on the simulation of the vehicle chassis and control of the hydraulic tilting system to give a good driver feel and safe, manoeuvrable vehicle. Cooper-Avon Tyres Ltd are working with the University of Bath to achieve these goals. A prototype of the vehicle will be built in late 2005.

Running on compressed natural gas, the vehicle would not only help preserve stocks of oil but would emit less polluting carbon dioxide than conventional 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 predicted to be equivalent to 188 miles per gallon (or 1.51 litres per 100 kms) with petrol, a fifth of most cars.

The collaboration developing it, including German, French, British and Austrian organisations, began work on the project in December 2002 and expects to complete it in December 2005. It is funded by the European Union.

The other 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.

Inside view of new  vehicle

"The CLEVER vehicle will be a tremendous leap forward in the development of vehicles," said Jos Darling, senior lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bath, who is in charge of its part of the project.

"The increase in traffic in our towns and cities means that we have to find a way to make our vehicles smaller. The advent of micro cars is a sign of this, but with its manoeuvrability and small width, the CLEVER vehicle is the ultimate in the search for a small vehicle to get around towns like Bath in.

"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.

Top view of new  vehicle

"The fact that it costs less to run, is quieter and is less polluting will also make it more 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 motoring and are proud that the University of Bath is at the heart of a European project to bring it about."

In the press - online references to the CLEVER car story:

For more information, please call the University of Bath press office on:
(01225) 386883 or 07966 341322

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