October 12 2009   Source: Bryan Joslin


BMW Retires Two Old Concepts to Museum Duty

Not every concept vehicle gets its fifteen minutes of fame on the auto show circuit. In fact most never see daylight beyond the design studio. BMW has pulled its SIMPLE and CLEVER concepts out of storage and is now putting them on display at the BMW Museum in Munich.

The SIMPLE (Sustainable and Innovative Mobility Product for Low Energy consumption) concept was greenlighted in 2005 and was something of a mashup of automotive and motorcycle technologies designed to explore the development of automatic leaning mechanisms. It combined an enclosed passenger cell with a a tandem two-seat arrangement, like a motorcycle. A 48-horsepower engine would have given the SIMPLE a 0-to-60 mph time of around ten seconds. Thanks to a super-slippery 0.18 drag coefficient, the 1000-pound SIMPLE was theoretically capable of achieving 330 mpg (0.7 liters per 100 km) with a combination of combustion engine and electric drive.

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The CLEVER (Compact Low Emission Vehicle for Urban Transport) likewise sported a tandem seating arrangement and three-wheeld configuration. The goal of this project, which was initiated in 2002, was to combine the joys and efficiency of cycling with the safety of a car. The CLEVER concept features a conventional steering wheel with a specially-designed airbag for the driver and seatbelts at both positions. Power came from a 230cc single-cylinder natural-gas combustion engine that made about 17 horsepower and had a range of 120 miles.

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Many concept vehicles are developed as thinking exercises for engineering teams rather than showpieces, and rarely get the kind of attention that cars like this year's Vision EfficientDynamics Coupe receive. The BMW GINA Lightweight Concept, which also sits proudly on the museum floor now, was yet another internal project that never met the public until it debuted in the museum.