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Innovative road vehicles point way to future

The TRA 2006 conference in Göteborg featured a variety of new products and envelope-pushing vehicles, including the Piaggio MP3, the starting point for the soon-to-be-launched ‘SIM’ project, and the recently unveiled ‘CLEVER’ vehicle.

Piaggio MP3 vehicle
The MP3 by Piaggio

The Piaggio MP3 is a highly innovative scooter-like vehicle with two front wheels that promoters say features “power, performance and ease of use”. The unusual front assembly, with two independent tilting wheels, is reputed to be far more stable than any scooter, providing top performance in total safety.

The MP3, which is already in production, will now serve as the starting point for the EU-funded SIM project (Safety in motion). The aim of the project, says Piaggio’s Marco Pieve, is to equip the MP3 with both active and passive safety devices, including an assisted braking system, electronic suspension, air bags and an intelligent navigation system and management tool that will relay system information to the driver.

The CLEVER vehicle
The CLEVER vehicle

The SIM project is set for launch in autumn 2006 and will focus on new safety configurations previously untested on motorcycle-type vehicles.

Off the beaten track

Also opening eyes at the TRA 2006 exhibition was the remarkable CLEVER vehicle. This project, which targeted improved safety and environmental performance, resulted in a tilting three-wheeler equipped with a 213 cc, single-cylinder, compressed natural gas (CNG)-driven engine that allows the vehicle to accelerate from zero to 60 km/h in less than seven seconds.

Heiko Johannsen and Peter Naumann
Heiko Johannsen and Peter Naumann

For project coordinator Heiko Johannsen of the Technical University of Berlin, an important secondary aim was to build a vehicle that is fun to drive. “Without that element,” he says, “we couldn’t be sure the product would be successful among end users.” Accordingly, international award winning designer Peter Naumann drew on a range of sources when creating the look of the new CLEVER vehicle, taking inspiration from the aerospace industry, from nature and even science fiction.

Partners admit the CLEVER vehicle may be too innovative to find its way to the masses in the short term, but they are nevertheless convinced that the various systems and sub-systems they had to develop will eventually have an impact on how and what we drive.

“We are especially pleased with out CNG refuelling system,” said Johannsen, “which may well be the first commercial application derived from the vehicle.”