In Europe, where automobile producers have committed to reduce the CO2 emissions of their fleets from today's average of 200 grams/km to 140, this EU-wide project has been on the radar since the CLEVER press release in April 2004. Now, CLEVER--for Compact Low-Emission VEhicle for uRban transport--has passed its first big test. In a head-on crash test, the innovative three-wheeler demonstrated very satisfactory performance, similar to a normal small car. Side-crash tests are planned. Further novelties include a natural gas engine with fuel-cartridge concept so the car can be used where a NatGas network is not yet complete. And unique software will manage the roll in the one-wheel passenger compartment while the two-wheeled luggage and motor compartment keeps both wheels on the ground; this should ensure CLEVER is FUN (see image on next page).
The project goal is to create a production vehicle for under 10,000 euros (12,000 US$). A project report is due in March 2006, but big questions remain about the CLEVER's future. BMW, one of the main partners in the development of the prototype, is still silent about whether they will take the vehicle into production. Speculation that the vehicle will be authorized as a motorcycle, requiring special driver licensing, could scare BMW away after the experience with the C1, which failed quickly after annual sales couldn't top 10,000 of the unique caged bikes in spite of the helmet-free approval.
Which is the Big Question: will the consumer find the CLEVER clever? If fun-to-drive meets green, it could be the answer many a lead-blooded sports driver with a conscience has been looking for, and expand the niche for mod city minis that Daimler-Chrysler opened with its smartcar.