Those who are passionate about electric cars know that, after many fits and starts, 2010 will likely be the year the world finally gives birth to an EV for the mass market. GM has its Volt, Nissan its Leaf, Tesla its Model S and Coda… its Coda. Now Daimler AG appears poised to get a jump-start on the competition by rolling out its electric Smart Fortwo. In a cool display of marketing savvy, Daimler will be cruising to more than a dozen US cities this fall where it will be inviting the public to come and take its Smart-ist car out for a spin.
The Smart Car has been a dramatic story. Defying the odds that size-worshipping American consumers would easily take to the diminutive European vehicle that some described as a wedge of cheese on wheels, the Smart Car entered the American market in 2006 as a money saving ultra-compact and managed to break the 10,000 unit sales mark in less than two years.
What is the outlook for Smart EV sales? Burned by memories of skyrocketing gas prices and motivated by concerns over environmental degradation, public awareness in America appears to be turning more seriously toward electric transport. Super-charged by the availability of private capital the EV industry has been busy, making deals, forming partnerships and building the manufacturing infrastructure for a future that may have indeed already arrived.
Like its non-electric older sister, the electric Smart Fortwo is not a vehicle for the kids and the dog. Smart has shown its eagerness to take on the American consumer and describes its new EVs as the first European electric vehicles that are fully operational for everyday use.
Powered by 30 kW drive motor and 16.5 kWh lithium-ion battery, it takes three and a half hours to charge the battery from 20 to 80 percent of its capacity and less than eight hours to fully charge it. The battery can also be charged using a common household 110V outlet and offers a range of 82 miles on a single charge. The electric vehicle will have the same favorable impact ratings (4 out of five frontal, five out of five side) as its combustion engine counterpart. Incredibly, the manufacturer describes the car as being made of 95% recyclable materials.
Daimler has reported that production of the Smart Fortwo EV has begun at its Hambach, France plant; production of 1,000 units will be completed within the next few months. Series production for consumer sales in Smart Center dealerships will begin in 2012 with the 2013 model year; and what about cost, you may ask? If Smart can keep that small it may indeed have a winner on its hands. According to one dealer I spoke with, pricing won’t be available for the vehicles until mid-September.
photo: David Villarreal Fernández