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Sparky Smart. Image by Charlie Magee.

Sparky Smart
Smart goes electric with its fortwo, making the compact two seater even more perfect for the city.

 



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| First Drive | Shoreditch, England | Smart fortwo electric drive |

The Smart fortwo has always excelled in the city, but with the addition of an electric transmission it makes even more sense than ever. Quiet, emissions free transport around town doesn't get much better.

In the Metal

Parked alongside its newer mkII Smart relatives it's not just the fortwo ed's number plate that gives away its age, but its styling. All but a handful of the ed Smarts currently being run as part of the development programme are based on the 'old' car. In our eyes that's no complaint, for although the interior of the new cars feels more upmarket and a bit more spacious, the original's quirky styling holds greater appeal than the bulkier-looking current car.

Outwardly - if you ignore the stickering - there's little to differentiate the Smart ed from its conventionally powered relatives. Eventual production versions will naturally be based on the current model and these are expected to arrive in the showroom by 2012.

What you get for your Money

Right now you don't get anything, as Smart isn't selling the fortwo ed. Instead it's being lent out to local authorities, the police and other public and private bodies for evaluation. Like its electric car rivals, the costs involved still make actual showroom models a distant reality - though with battery development and costs reducing dramatically customer-ready, affordable electric cars from Smart aren't so far away from showroom reality to dismiss them as merely an aside and environmental posturing on Smart's part.

Driving it

Like all electric vehicles there's no noise on start-up, the only indication that the 41bhp engine is ready to go is via the instrumentation. Those used to the sound of an engine's revs flaring will find their first Smart ed drive an unusual one, as there is no noise to accompany forward movement. You don't need to change gears either, the awful head nodding that characterises most Smart drives being welcome in its absence. Smart doesn't quote a 0-62mph time as it cannot, the ed topping out at a limited 60mph, with 30mph arriving in a reasonable 6.5 seconds. Acceleration is very linear, the electric motor delivering all its 92lb.ft of torque instantly. It's easily quick enough for the city environment where it's designed for, its range of 70 miles also covering all but the most ambitious shopping excursions into town.

It's always difficult to quantify a comparable mpg figure for electric cars, but Smart claims a number approximating 300mpg. That's based on it consuming 12kWh every 62 miles. Don't ask me what that means as back in the day in physics classes we were too busy blowing up capacitors and short-circuiting stuff and creating sparks to ever understand what a kWh really is. Google it if you must. In every other respect the Smart ed feels like its conventional siblings - which is good from an acceptance point of view, but hardly a ringing endorsement thanks to the fortwo's really quite rubbish ride quality and utterly lifeless steering. Still, you can feel extraordinarily smug when you're driving it, so long as you don't stray more than 70 miles from a plug - and the energy you put in is from a sustainable source.

Worth Noting

You'll not pay road tax, or the Congestion Charge (effectively another road tax) if you live in London and have a Smart ed. Charging it couldn't be simpler; all you need to do is find an ordinary domestic three-pin plug socket. A full charge requires an eight-hour plug-in, though 80% capacity takes just four hours. Being a battery car, maintenance costs are minimal, there being no need to replace consumables like spark plugs, oil and air filters and even oil.

The batteries in these early cars are liquid sodium-nickel chloride rather than the lithium ion batteries used in the ed's competitors. With the range and performance advantages lithium ion batteries bring the Smart ed will, in its eventual production guise, offer even better performance, range and charge times.

Summary

Just 100 Smart eds are currently being trialled by companies and local authorities, but the lessons learned from the miles that turn under their wheels will finesse the eventual production car's range, charging and costs over the experimental cars. As it stands though, an electrically powered Smart is an enticing proposition for city drivers.

Kyle Fortune - 18 Jun 2009









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2009 Smart fortwo electric. Image by Lyndon McNeil.2009 Smart fortwo electric. Image by Lyndon McNeil.2009 Smart fortwo electric. Image by Lyndon McNeil.2009 Smart fortwo electric. Image by Lyndon McNeil.2009 Smart fortwo electric. Image by Lyndon McNeil.

2009 Smart fortwo electric. Image by Charlie Magee.2009 Smart fortwo electric. Image by Charlie Magee.2009 Smart fortwo electric. Image by Charlie Magee.2009 Smart fortwo electric. Image by Charlie Magee.2009 Smart fortwo electric. Image by Charlie Magee.



2009 Smart fortwo electric. Image by Charlie Magee.
 

2009 Smart fortwo electric. Image by Charlie Magee.
 

2009 Smart fortwo electric. Image by Charlie Magee.
 

2009 Smart fortwo electric. Image by Charlie Magee.
 

2009 Smart fortwo electric. Image by Charlie Magee.
 

2009 Smart fortwo electric. Image by Charlie Magee.
 






 

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