January 29, 2005 Global automotive technology developer Prodrive has developed an exciting vehicle concept that can best be described as a four wheel motorcycle. The "Naro" is just 2.5 metres long, the same as a Smart car, but the width of a motorbike and the height of an MPV. Its high centre of gravity means that it must be leaned like a bike to go round corners, but unlike a bike it has four wheels and the two occupants (one driver and one passenger) sit enclosed within a body with all the comforts of a car.
Weighing only about 300kg, less than a third of most city cars, it is expected that the Naro will be powered by a small petrol or diesel engine giving up to 100mpg or by a new generation of fuel cell engines running on hydrogen. While designed primarily for the city, the aerodynamics of Naro means that it would be more than capable of motorway speeds.
Prodrive licensed The Narrow Car Company to develop the project in mid-2004 and already a number of businesses have shown interest in the design. The Narrow Car Company is a technology developer and niche manufacturer which will bring the Naro concept to the market, though a great deal of development can be expected before the Naro sees action on the streets of London.
"Previous urban concept vehicles have been low to the ground to maintain stability, but in traffic this can leave the driver feeling very vulnerable," said Damian Harty, Prodrive chief dynamics engineer and creator of Naro. "Recent taller, leaning designs have used three wheels. However, we believe that if the motoring public is to accept such vehicles that four wheels is the best way forward."
A keen motorcyclist, Harty has incorporated the advantages of two and four wheels into one machine - the comfort, security and weather protection of a car, plus the height, economy, and narrow road "footprint" of a motorcycle.
Interestingly, Harty is unsure of the most user-friendly steering mechanism for the driver and his thoughts are particularly well documented in an excellent article at Engineerlive.com
The problem is that when steering a bike, few people realise they momentarily push the handlebars in the opposite direction to begin turning into a corner. As Naro is leaned by the driver in exactly the same way, with no power assistance, it has a special steering and leaning mechanism to allow it to corner. This system is more complex with the need to steer two front wheels rather than one.
Working with Coventry University's Art and Design course, Prodrive developed the Naro as a solution to urban congestion, and envisages one of the first applications could be as a traffic-busting single passenger taxi. it has four wheels and the occupants sit enclosed within a body with all the comforts of a car.
"As traffic congestion increases and fuel costs rise, I think vehicles like Naro could soon become a familiar sight on our city roads and, who knows, you may soon be hailing one of these rather than a black cab," said Harty.
For followers of the Naro, the Project now has a web site.