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TTW One Travels the Light and Narrow

Breaking News

The TTW One (a provisional name for Three Tilting Wheels) marries the PCV with a dual mode parallel hybrid electric powertrain, a brilliant CNG combustion engine, active tilt and steer control that allows the driver to lean through turns, integrated vehicle dynamics, structural optimization and crash proof safety
ttw one
image from TTW
by Ross Bonander

Specs:

  • Type: Dual mode parallel hybrid electric vehicle
  • Class: 2-passenger PCV (Personal Commuting Vehicle)
  • Manufacturer: TTW S.r.l.
  • Propulsion system: 850 cc ICE + 25kW electric motors in the front wheels
  • Top Speed: 112 mph (180 km/h)
  • Zero-to-62: 6 seconds
  • Vehicle range (electric): 15 miles (25 km)
  • Vehicle range (hybrid): 186 miles (300 km)
  • Fuel(s): Electric, compressed natural gas (CNG)
  • Price: Est. €15,000 ($22,000) with the help of various incentives
  • Availability: NA

The manufacturer says

"Light and narrow is by definition more efficient than wide and heavy."

Overview

Based in Turin, Italy–the city itself and the wider Piemonte region has a rich automotive tradition, thanks to Fiat–TTW S.r.l. was founded by entrepreneur Stefano Carabelli in 2007 as an offshoot off Politecnico di Torino, (the Technical University in Turin). His product is the TTW One (a provisional name for Three Tilting Wheels), a vehicle that marries the PCV with a dual mode parallel hybrid electric powertrain, a brilliant CNG combustion engine, active tilt & steer control that allows the driver to lean through angles up to 45°, integrated vehicle dynamics, structural optimization and crash proof safety

What we like

The safety: A tubular frame made of high resistant steel protects

the occupants better than one might imagine on first glance. The company claims that it's "as safe as a regular small city vehicle, and by far safer than normal two wheelers." I think this is probably accurate, and with a curb weight of just 880 lbs (400 kg), you'll need that full-body roll-bar when you get T-boned by anything with a chrome grill.

"Light and narrow is by definition more efficient than wide and heavy." --TTW

The Active Tilt & Steer: TTW designed a new suspension for the vehicle that allows it to tilt while taking corners, something we've seen in the Persu and the Carver One, although TTW's 2+1 wheel configuration makes this experience a bit different. "The electromechanical active tilting system is electronically activated and computer controlled. It assures that the vehicle stays upright during standstill and lower speeds, and at higher speeds allows car-like steering while the vehicle self-leans into the curves like a motorcycle."

The tilt-activated assisted entry: While in park, at the push of a button the TTW tilts away from the driver, making entry into the cockpit easier. Once the driver fires up the engine, the TTW rights itself.

The dimensions: At 8.2 ft (2500 mm) long, the TTW One is shorter than the 2nd generation Smart fortwo and no longer than a big motorcycle, and its motorcycle profile doesn't end there, as the vehicle's track is a narrow 3.6 ft (1100 mm).

The combustion fuel: I LOVE the fact that TTW's ICE burns compressed natural gas (CNG). Why is it so few manufacturers beyond Honda have embraced CNG? Granted, on-board storage is problematic, but CNG is an extraordinarily abundant (if largely non-renewable) fuel that, compared to its fossil fuel brethren, burns very clean. It's high-octane and it poses no grave environmental threat to the soil or water sources. It comes with an infrastructure already in place, and it has the highest hydrogen-to-carbon ratio of any known energy source, lending itself to commercial hydrogen sales and even lending itself over as a potential transition fuel to hydrogen and the fuel cell.

The wheel configuration: The TTW One's 2+1 wheel configuration may lack the initial 'cool' factor of a more standard 1+2 that we see in most 3-wheeled vehicles, but the incredible contributions it makes to handling and maneuverability—at least on paper—should render that factor immaterial.

What we don’t

The drivetrain: My only truck with the TTW One is the decision to make her come standard as a parallel hybrid. However, this is offset, somewhat, by the options available, which include a plug-in add-on that would increase the vehicle's all-electric range to 62 miles (100 km), as well as a monofuel option to run purely on CNG.

Conclusions

On first look at the TTW One, I was ready to slam it—I didn't like a thing about it. But the closer I looked at the meticulous engineering and the jarring yet elegant design, and the more I remembered my own brief time spent in Italy, the more amore I felt for this vehicle. I'm not suggesting this is the right vehicle for every imaginable road–I'm not sure I see a massive market for it in the US, for example–but it's the right one for smart, eco-friendly commuters and others trying to navigate the winding, organic streets of Italy and other European countries.

The world will get a better look at the TTW One in 2010, as it is the sole Italian entry in next year's Progressive Automotive X-Prize.

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