Two very different electric-powered vehicles from Daimler’s Smart brand are readying for launch, including the third-generation Smart Fortwo Electric Drive and the pedal-driven, electric-assisted Smart ebike.
A further developed and refined version of the car we had this past year, the third-generation Fortwo Electric Drive benefits from customer feedback, which contributed to better performance over the old model. With the exception of an onboard electric motor, the Smart ebike is a traditional bicycle that still requires pedaling. Both vehicles are planned to go on sale in Europe in the first half of 2012.
The Smart Fortwo Electric Drive gets a boost in power, raising output from 30 kW from the previous model’s electric motor to 55 kW in the new drive system, developed through a joint venture with German auto supplier Bosch. This allows the Fortwo Electric Drive to accelerate a significantly quicker than the second-generation model, while also allowing for a higher top speed. Not surprisingly, the last model’s relative sluggishness was the biggest complaint reported by customers in Smart’s survey research. Smart says the new model is capable of accelerating from zero to 62 mph in less than 13 seconds, and can reach a top speed of 120 kmh (roughly 75 mph).
According to Smart, the Fortwo Electric Drive will have a range of about 140 km (87 miles), thanks to a 17.6-kWh lithium-ion battery supplied by Deutsche Accumotive. Smart says the limited range won’t be an issue for its customers, reporting that a vast majority of drivers claimed to only drive 30 to 40 km (20 to 25 miles) per day and most were satisfied with their Smart’s range. The battery takes up to eight hours to fully charge when plugged into a household socket or charging station. An onboard quick charger is available, and allows drivers to fully charge an empty battery in less than an hour, according to Smart.
Similar to the Hybrid Bicycle from Lexus, the Smart ebike uses both human and electric power to drive the two-wheeled vehicle. The bike primarily consists of an aluminum frame and a plastic housing for the battery. A 250-watt brushless electric motor is fitted to the rear wheel hub, and kicks in as soon as a rider begins pedaling. A button on the handlebar controls the distribution of electric power, allowing the rider to choose how much assistance the motor provides.
Regenerative braking is also utilized on the ebike, turning the electric motor into a generator when decelerating. Just like it works in most hybrid cars, the system turns the kinetic energy from the brakes and turns it into electrical current, which is then stored in the 400-Wh lithium-ion battery. Smart says the battery can last for more than 62 miles, depending on how much power the rider chooses to use and how often they brake. Smart believes that the ebike, which will retail for under 2900 Euros (roughly $4182), will be an attractive transportation alternative for European customers, as a license isn’t required to operate it.
A near-production version of the Smart ebike will be exhibited at the Frankfurt Motor Show, while 2000 units of the Fortwo Electric Drive are planned for production at a plant in Hambach, France, with a total number of at least 10,000 units to be built before the car goes on sale in spring 2012.