The BMW Simple Is A Three-Wheel Car Concept We're Glad BMW Decided Not To Build

BMW has a long history of interesting concept cars. The BMW GINA Light Visionary Model was a sleek roadster concept that wasn't too dissimilar from the marque's Z-series roadsters. But the GINA had a notable quirk: instead of sheet metal on the exterior, it had fabric draped over the frame. The GINA was a notable success when it comes to one-off design concepts. 

At CES this year, BMW managed to wrap a stylish EV concept car in an e-ink display. That car was named the BMW i Vision Dee. Stylistically, the Vision Dee was well-received and will hopefully serve as a roadmap for whatever future model BMW's engineers deem ready for mass consumption.

In the two-wheeled world, BMW's Vision AMBY concept revealed back in 2021 was a quick e-bike that was part of BMW's focus on future electrified transportation. With all of BMW's successful concepts, there's always a few where BMW fans should be glad these models never made it past the concept stage.

One such blunder was the BMW SIMPLE Concept.

Anything but simple for BMW

The SIMPLE Concept was a truly bizarre, motorcycle-like vehicle that looked more like an egg from space than anything you would actually want to drive. According to BMW, "SIMPLE" was an acronym that stood for "a sustainable and innovative mobility product for low energy consumption." Take notice of the clunky phrasing that BMW used. The words "motorcycle" and "car" are nowhere to be found. The SIMPLE was a "mobility product." The 2008 concept was based on "tilting technology," per a BMW press release.

The SIMPLE was a three-wheeler — one wheel in the front and two in the back — that utilized tilt-steering. The driver and one passenger in the very alien-looking cockpit could lean in the direction they wanted to turn and the whole vehicle would lean into the corner, theoretically allowing for sharper turns. It should be noted that leaning into a turn had been present in a significantly less complicated form on essentially every motorcycle ever produced since the advent of motorized transportation.

Surprisingly efficient, if impractical

More importantly than BMW (not exactly) breaking new ground in leaning slightly to the side, the SIMPLE was made to be efficient. On that front, it deserves some credit: the concept had a fairly insane drag coefficient. That's a measure of how much drag a vehicle experiences when it's moving at speed — the lower the better. The SIMPLE had a drag coefficient of 0.18. For comparison, the Bugatti Chiron — a car that has to cut through the air at over 260 miles per hour — has a drag coefficient of 0.36.

The concept was also startlingly stingy on gasoline. The vehicle had a small 48-horsepower motor that managed to sip just two liters of fuel for every 100 kilometers driven (per BMW). You probably wouldn't want to drive 100 kilometers in the SIMPLE, but that calculates to over 117 miles per gallon. While the SIMPLE may lose in the looks department, it's up there with the best when it comes to fuel economy. In 2023, the SIMPLE concept is stored in BMW's museum, thankfully far away from any production lines.