Because of the height and the slim width of the NARO tiny leaning car, the lean factor is actually an added safety measure. At higher speeds without the lean, there would be a greater risk for the vehicle to flip over. Instead, the NARO has a patented system that restricts the lean capability at low speeds and automatically engages it when you go faster. The car borrows the same physics principles that motorcycles use when they hug turns.
The two driving modes that allow for the upright driving and the lean are called roll-stiff pro-steering and free-leaning counter-steering, respectively. Since the NARO shifts between these for you, drivers don't have to worry about when to engage the leaning factor.
Since tiny leaning cars are a lot like motorcycles, it makes sense that the term "counter-steering" comes up. Counter-steering is the way you navigate on a motorcycle when you lean on the side of the handlebars in the opposite direction you want to go. For more detailed information about motorcycles, read How Motorcycles Work. But unlike the two-wheeled vehicle, the NARO computer that regulates the different steering modes also allows the driver to continue steering as usual even during the free-leaning mode. The passenger compartment will lean to the left or right, depending on the direction it is cornering.
How safe are these car-motorcycle combos? A steel cage skeleton covered with thermoplastic panels encloses the passenger compartment. These crash panels are similar to those in regular cars [source: Sampson]. Designers have also integrated airbags into the body for increased protection. Thanks to the size of the car and the materials, it weighs a mere 771 pounds (350 kilograms). Since it's so light, its position close to the ground and the leaning help prevent it from flipping over.
One three-wheeled leaning car that has officially hit the market in Europe is the Carver One. The Carver One looks like the back of a compact sedan married to the front of a motorcycle. Carvers have a driver-passenger arrangement similar to that of the NARO, only the interior and exterior look a bit more luxurious. But rather than eco-friendliness, Carver stresses the fun of skimming around turns and taking advantage of its responsive suspension and lean.
These design hybrids have two stationary back wheels and a free-tilting passenger compartment and front wheel. Its patented Dynamic Vehicle Control system that combines hydraulics and electronic fine-tuning allows for this movement [source: Carver Engineering]. Like the NARO, the Carver One has a steel cage along with the outer paneling and seat belts for safety. It also has passed the European Union road approval certification where it's on sale and pending approval overseas.
One drawback of the Carver One, however, is its fuel economy. Getting only 40 miles per gallon, it barely outpaces sedans on the road. That issue may partially relate to its size, weighing nearly twice that of the NARO.
For more information about tiny leaning cars and other future auto, visit the links below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
More Great Links
- Discovery Channel. "The Body." FutureCar. Feb. 14, 2007.
- Global Insight. "Demand for Cars and Trucks to Quadruple at Current Trends by 2035." June 2008. (June 24, 2008) http://www.globalinsight.com/PressRelease/PressReleaseDetail12968.htm
- Kemp, Hugh and Harty, Damian Andrew. "Laterally-leaning vehicle." European Patent Office. EP 1 702 773 A2. Sept. 20, 2006. (June 24, 2008). http://v3.espacenet.com/origdoc?DB=EPODOC&IDX=EP1702773&F=0&QPN=EP1702773
- Sampson, Ben. "Lean machine." Professional Engineering. March 8, 2006.
- Sawyer, Christopher. "Lean Mobility." Automotive Design & Production. July 2006. (June 24, 2008). http://www.autofieldguide.com/articles/070603.html