Super-Efficient BMW Concepts Are Simple and Clever


Super-Efficient BMW Concepts Are Simple and Clever

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BMW, the company that brought you Gina, that wild shape-shifting concept car made of cloth, went even further off the deep end with a pair of wacky concepts making their debut at the company museum in Munich.

The cars, dubbed “Simple” and “Clever” — acronyms that we’ll explain in a moment — are über-small, über-light three-wheelers that are supposed to show just how far down the efficiency road BMW can go. The Bavarians say Simple is “light in weight, low on energy” and Clever gives you “cooperative driving pleasure.”

We say, WTF?

Funky styling aside, the two cars have some cool innovations and show what’s possible when efficiency is the highest objective.

That’s Simple in the main photo above. It looks like something you’d find hanging from a cable on the Graf Zeppelin, but in reality, it’s a show car from 2005. The name is an acronym for the project’s name, “Sustainable and Innovative Mobility Product for Low Energy consumption.” You can see why they called it Simple.

BMW says the trike “combines features and advantages from both automobiles and motorcycles.” Maybe, but it also looks like something a trucker would have to hose off his grill if things got nasty. That said, it is mighty efficient. Simple tips the scales at only 450 kilos (920 pounds), so the internal combustion engine motivating it is commensurately small, putting out only 36 kilowatts (48.2 horsepower). BMW says the three-wheeler will do zero to 62 mph in less than ten seconds and has a super-slippery drag coefficient of 0.18. That’s almost as slick as the equally funky Aptera Motors 2e electric car. But the car’s most notable feature is it leans like a motorcycle in turns.

Next we have Clever, which stands for “Compact Low Emission Vehicle for Urban Transport.” If Simple looks like something from the 1930s, Clever looks like something right out of the folded paper school of design from the 1980s, even if it was made in 2002. BMW worked with a host of technical colleges and universities from all over Europe to develop the car.

The objective was to create a car with minimal emissions. Clever runs on natural gas stored in two compressed-gas cylinders. It emits just 60 grams of CO2 per 100 kilometers. The Toyota Prius, for the sake of comparison, emits 89. Power comes from a 230-cc single-cylinder engine that produces 12.4 kilowatts (16.7 horsepower). The car features a continuously variable transmission and, like Simple, leans into corners at up to 45 degrees. That front suspension looks like something off a Bimota Tesi.

Clever weighs less than 400 kilos (about 881 pounds) and is just three feet wide. BMW says it offers no more than one square meter of frontal area, making it very aerodynamic. BMW claims Clever can do zero to 60 km/h (37.2 mph) in around 7 seconds and tops out at approximately 100 km/h (62 mph).

In case you’re wondering, Clever is safer than it might look. It has special seat belts and a specially developed driver airbag that allowed Clever to comply with the Euro NCAP crash test requirements for small cars at the time. The passengers, who sit tandem, are ensconced in a survival cell.

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