The Carver, with an electric powertrain, a narrow body with three wheels, and its ability to tilt through corners, is surely the ultimate answer to the challenges of congestion and emissions, and it’s also affordable and fun.
The Carver appeared on Top Gear, in the hands of Richard Hammond, back in 2003, with a petrol motorbike engine; almost 20 years later it’s reappeared, this time with an all-electric powertrain, and there are now two new models: the S+ with a higher top speed, and the R+ with a longer range. It still tilts when it goes round corners, so it’s fun, and it must be one the best solutions to the challenges of emissions and congestion in today’s urban areas.
The Carver has three wheels; one at the front, and two at the rear. Its party trick is that it tilts when it goes round corners, although the entire vehicle doesn’t tilt, just the passenger compartment. It’s a two-seater and the rear seat can accommodate an adult (a child can sit in the back seat subject to having an appropriate child car seat up to the age of twelve). A 5.3 kWh lithium ion battery (or 7.1 kWh battery in the case of the new models) and electric motor are located between the rear wheels.
Amazingly, the Carver even has a ‘boot’, which has 75 litres of storage space. If that’s not enough, then you can order a Cargo version, which ditches the rear seat and in its place it offers 500 litres of storage space – ideal for zero emission last-mile deliveries.
So what is the Carver? A scooter? A motorbike? A microcar? Officially, it’s a tricycle, but it falls under the classification of an L2e-P scooter/moped (the new, faster Carver S+ has European type approval for vehicle class L5e (motorbike)). Thanks to a roof, a windscreen and two doors with windows, it’s weatherproof.
Theoretically you can drive the Carver from the age of 16 as long as you have a provisional licence and a CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) certificate pass, but this is subject to the criteria that insurance companies require to provide cover. The new Carver S+ requires a full motorcycle licence.
The Carver was designed and developed in the Netherlands and is manufactured in South Korea.
Unlike some other vehicles which aim to offer similar urban mobility (although the Carver doesn’t really have any direct rivals), we think the Carver is well designed and looks pretty cool.
Whereas scooters and motorbikes have handlebars, the Carver has a steering wheel. So once you’re in and you’ve fastened your seatbelt and pressed the ‘D’ transmission button, it’s like driving a car – one of the most fun cars that you’ve ever driven.
You can squeeze through ridiculously narrow gaps in traffic due to the 98cm width, and when you go round corners, the body tilts, thanks to the patented Dynamic Vehicle Control (DVC) system. So the driving experence is like a motorbike, but because it has three wheels rather than two, it’s stable (and just in case, the roof has a steel frame). It only weighs 330 kg, so it feels very agile.
You can drive in bus lanes in London, which saves lots of time compared to being stuck in the traffic jams that you can whizz past, but rather than other road users being annoyed at this, instead everyone seems to just wave at you and smile when you’re driving a Carver.
There’s an electric motor with a single-speed automatic gearbox, so there’s none of the gear changing that’s needed with a motorbike. With a 30mph top speed, performance is perfectly adequate for London traffic (which typically has 20mph or 30mph speed limits), but two new models are now available – the S+, with a higher 50mph top speed, and the R+, with a longer range (80 miles). The S+ and R+ also have three drive modes.
You get indicators, a windscreen wiper, a front windscreen demister and two side air vents, which can blow hot air, so there’s even a form of heating. And you can take off the roof (and the side windows) to make into it a convertible. The latest model has opening side windows.
There’s a USB port, an amplifier which you can Bluetooth your phone to so you can play music, and there’s a phone holder so you can use Google Maps for satnav.
Air conditioning and LED lights are also available.
The Carver and the S+ have a driving range of up to 60 miles on one charge, but the new R+ model can cover up to 80 miles. There’s a 2.7-metre charging cable which you pull out of a compartment at the bottom rear of the vehicle. You can charge the Carver using a domestic 3-pin plug socket, which takes five hours (or 3 hours 45 minutes for the Carver S+ and R+). You can also charge it at a public charging point up to 7kW (you need an adaptor to do this, which Carver can provide) (and it won’t charge any faster than a regular domestic socket). Many properties in cities such as London don’t have off-street parking so you can also use lamp post charging if this is available, such as the ubitricity scheme. A full charge – giving a range of up to 60 miles – could cost just £1, or even less with certain electricity tariffs.
The Carver avoids congestion and pollution (ULEZ) charges, and there’s no road tax. There’s currently no plug-in vehicle grant for three-wheeled vehicles, although in our view this needs to be addressed.
The Carver costs from £12,000, but there are now two new models with a larger 7.1 kWh battery. There’s the Carver S+, which has a top speed of 50mph, a range of 50 miles, and costs £14,490. The Carver R+ has a longer range of 80 miles, a top speed of 30mph, and costs £13,490. There’s also the Carver Cargo S+, this has a top speed of 50mph, a range of 60 miles, and costs £15,113, or there’s the Carver Cargo R+ which has a top speed of 30mph, a range of 80 miles and costs £13,903 (all prices including VAT).
The Carver comes in four colours: Gun Metal Grey, White, Blue and Tangerine.
Although the Carver appeared on Top Gear back in 2003, almost 20 years later, in electric form, it’s now the vehicle of the future for our cities. With zero tailpipe emissions, it provides a solution to the problems of local air pollution and climate change, and with its small footprint compared to motorists’ most popular choice of vehicle, an SUV, it provides a solution to the huge issue of congestion in our urban areas. It’s also great fun to drive – and this can only get better with the new S+ model. And compared to electric cars, it’s affordable.
Although the two-seater version is a brilliant solution for urban commuters, perhaps of even more significance is the Carver Cargo, which is a product that exists now for last-mile deliveries, and which could help to reduce the number of diesel vans in our cities.
The Carver Electric is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 9 out of 10.
Test drives of the Carver Electric are currently available in London (interestingly, most people who test drive the Carver are male and aged 45+), but there are plans to expand test drives to other locations in the near future through a growing dealership network.