Trikes with a difference, might be one way to describe these tilting three wheelers and they both deserve our serious attention. The BMW CLEVER (Compact Low Emission Vehicle for Urban Transport) concept vehicle and the Carver, produced by Carver Europe in the Netherlands, are two very similar vehicles built to answer essentially the same question, how best to address the issues of urban congestion and pollution. The CLEVER project focused more on the issue of emissions and as a result uses a compressed natural gas powerplant.
The Carver has been produced in limited numbers on a hand built basis and delivered to customers in Europe. They project regular production of up to 500 units sometime this year. The CLEVER is a concept vehicle only and was just introduced by BMW a few days ago.
Similarities in the Carver and CLEVER
Both vehicles are configured as a single front wheel tricycle layout driven by the pair of rear wheels. Because any narrow vehicle, and especially a single front wheel trike, will tip over in turns even at relatively low speeds, the designers created a hydraulic mechanism to automatically tilt the entire portion of the vehicles in front of the rear drive wheels. Tilting into the turn like a motorcycle moves the center of gravity inward and keeps the vehicle upright. The tilting is automatic and does not require any weight shifting from the driver and the steering is done with an automotive like wheel.
Both the Carver and CLEVER offer full roll cage like protection for the occupants plus weather protection, as well. The Carver has a removable hardtop and a roll on softop plus electric windows so you have the option of driving in a very open configuration like a motorcycle plus tilting in the turns, giving a very motorcycle like experience. It’s hard to say what variations are available on the CLEVER from the information so far available.
Specifications for the Carver and CLEVER
The Carver is powered by a 659cc inline 4 cylinder engine through a 5 speed manual transmission with reverse in the European version, although a different engine plus an automatic transmission will be installed for North American versions. Top speed is 115mph with 0-60 in 8.2 seconds. It gets 40mpg. Tandem seating for two. Price ranges from 29,950 euro ($37,129) to 37,560 euro ($46,563) depending on options.
The BMW CLEVER concept vehicle is powered by compressed natural gas, has a top speed of 60mph and is said to get the equivalent of 108mpg. 0-40 is about 7 seconds. Tandem seating for two. The CNG powerplant offers very low emissions and the possibility of home refueling while other alternative powerplants are under consideration.
The projected price according to some sources of $10,000 for the CLEVER seems extremely optimistic when you consider the price of a reasonably equipped BMW motorcycle with far less complexity, something closer to twice that seems more realistic. The CLEVER’s performance is more like that of a scooter than a motorcycle and unless someone was truly committed to making an environmental statement it’s probably too slow. Even urban commuters need a bit more than that on occasion.
The Carver’s performance numbers seem quite good and the range of options make it appear to be an enjoyable ride, actually it looks like it might be a lot of fun.
Considering the number of trikes that are sold, especially to those who find motorcycles are getting to be a bit too much to handle, these tilting 3 wheelers could offer the same tilting and handling experience in a much easier to master package. The roll cage protection would appeal to many, even those who would otherwise not look at a motorcycle for safety reasons. The small size might make for a viable inner city commuter. The weather protection could extend the motorcycle like season to practically a year round activity.
Can the Carver sell in large numbers at the price they are asking? Since it is hand built and limited production, they may sell what they can make. Volume production which would lead to a drop in price is probably necessary to sell many more. How many more? Hard to say.
The CLEVER is still a concept so until prices and performance are nailed down, everything is just speculation. With other manufacturers developing 3 wheelers like the VW GX3, it looks like companies are willing to expand their horizons beyond the options we’ve had so far. Will the CLEVER make it to production? Time will tell.
(Thanks to all of you who sent email pointing out the CLEVER. With that much interest it seemed we should take a look! 🙂 )