There’s no reason to shun the fact that renewable fuel sources are the wave of the future. If not, mankind is going to suck this planet dry by overusing the fossil fuels that run the mass majority of our transportation system today. Electric driving is the future and smart, which launched in the U.S. in 2008 and sold 24,000 gasoline vehicles, is in prime position with their fortwo electric drive vehicle. The Daimler owned brand has grown its American network to 77 stores including Puerto Rico and now Hawaii — all of which are distributed by the Penske Automotive Group.
Smart was an early adaptor of electric motoring when it launched its zero-emission platform in 2007 in London with 100 vehicles (Phase 1). The vehicle was well received and led smart to unleash its second generation product with a more advanced Lithium-Ion battery (developed by Tesla Motors Inc.) which offered greater performance and shorter charge times. Phase 2 kicked off year-end 2009 in Berlin and consisted of a 1500 vehicle production run for Europe, Canada, and a few key cities in Asia. The U.S. will receive 250 of those vehicles beginning in October this year. The challenge for any Electric Vehicle (EV) company is to secure the infrastructure for their vehicles. This includes power grids and charging stations for both the home and on the go to make a consumer’s EV purchase viable. Chosen launch cities will be Portland, San Jose, Orlando, Indianapolis and the I-95 corridor (DC, NJ, NY and MA). Phase 2 will focus primarily on corporations with a full consumer run in 2012. The smart fortwo electric drive will lease for $599 a month for 48 months and includes a 4-year warranty. A $7500 government tax credit is already factored into the lease payment.
To educate us on their new electric drive technology, smart brought the U.S. and international media to Brooklyn, NY for fun and whimsical drives in the diminutive coupes and cabriolets. The green on white go-cart like vehicles were cute yet a little edgy. It begins with a front fascia similar to a smiling robot and ends with a relatively short 2.5 meter plus body squatting on 15″ green rims that are pushed to the four corners of the vehicle. My drive partner, AR Editor in Chief Brian Armstead, and I rode in a cabriolet, which exposes the roll bar when the soft top is folded back. Did we feel silly? Of course we did. Did we have fun? Of course we did. Anxious NYer’s were blowing horns at us for blocks trying to get a glimpse of the smart fortwo electric drive. Brian, who stands almost 7 feet tall had no problem fitting in the vehicle. Safety may be your first concern knowing American roads are bullish with SUVs, large sedans, and truckers. Smart says the vehicle is built like a racecar and has a steel cage. We hoped as much when an impatient 18-wheeler nearly blind sided us in an attempt to beat a red light!
Fresh and innovative is how you describe the smart. The company already knew they would develop electric drive from the same platform as the gasoline vehicle so no compromises with space or design were made. The 16.5 kWh lithium-ion battery sits under the seats where the gas tank was and the 30 kW electric motor along with the charging unit, single shift gearbox and drivetrain cooling unit are packaged in the rear of the vehicle. The smart fortwo electric drive can be charged in 3.5 hours from 20% to 80% using a 220V outlet. A full charge occurs in less than 8 hours. A 110V household outlet can also be used to charge your smart. It can reach 0 to 40 mph in 6.5 seconds and has an 82 mile range per charge. Top speed is electronically limited to 60 mph. Acceleration was good and moderate, but nothing like that of the Tesla Roadster which feels like a rocket sled.
Additional technology comes in the form of an iPhone application (smart drive kit) that basically turns your Apple phone into a transponder for the vehicle. A docking station is angled towards the driver and does a multitude of tasks including Car Finder, internet radio, navigation with smart touch, charge status, driving range, and much more. The app is $9.99 in the U.S. for basic and $49.99 per year with the navigation upgrade.
Eco-friendly, zero emissions, electric smiles, and fun urban commuting is what the smart fortwo electric drive is all about. Electric is the wave of the future. Are you an early adapter?