MEDIA REVIEWS is a compilation of reviews and write-ups of test drives of various e-drive vehicles by the different authors and media. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of EV World. Click the article title to expand the story.
Smart Offers Free 'Yo' Test Drive of Electric Car
Visitors to San Francisco's Mission and SoMa districts are offered free test drive anywhere in the city limits.
The Drum 22 Aug 2014
Mercedes Benz has hit on a novel way to stimulate interest in its range of smart electric cars, by offering a free ride in one to anyone who sends them a ‘Yo’ using the simple app.
From noon today in San Francisco pop-up signs will appear in the city’s Mission and SoMa districts inviting passersby to send out a ‘Yo’ to ‘smartUSA’. Anyone who does so will be invited for a spin on the spot to wherever they wish to travel (within city limits).
Mercedes-Benz spokesman Eric Angeloro, explained: “The main priority is to get people to drive the vehicle, and tapping into that Yo audience is a great way to do that. We’re giving ‘Electricurious’ San Franciscans the world’s first-ever Yo-powered test ride.”
Mercedes Benz has promised to run a fleet of eight vehicles on the day to meet demand, three of which will be electric. The promotion is designed to highlight how handy the vehicles are for city driving, being easy to park and requiring no petrol.
Test Drive: Smart ForTwo Electric Drive
With the launch in May 2013, Smart has delivered 923 electric drive versions, or some 10% of all Smart ForTwos sold.
Christian Science Monitor 23 Jan 2014
With minimal changes from the model launched last year as the least expensive electric car in the U.S., the 2014 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive remains the smallest and shortest plug-in electric car sold in the U.S.--as well as the only one offered as a convertible.
The two-seat electric Smart comes not only as a three-door hatchback but also as a Cabriolet model with a folding cloth roof that can be rolled back partway like a large sunroof, or dropped all the way down to sit in a pile at the rear of the car just behind the driver's shoulders.
It may be winter now, but if you're craving open-air motoring when the sun shines--and want to keep it all-electric--the Smart Electric Drive is your sole option.
On the road, the electric version of the Smart ForTwo is really what the car should have been from the start: smooth, relatively quiet, and fairly quick away from stops because its electric motor develops maximum torque as soon as it begins to rotate.
It's a heavier car, at roughly 2,000 pounds, than the gasoline Smart, but far smoother since it dispenses with that car's jerky automated manual gearbox and delivers its electric power in one smooth surge.
The 2014 Smart Electric Drive has its 17.6-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack between the two layers of the sandwich floor.
That means its weight is carried down low in the chassis, which makes the car handle well and corner flat.
A full recharge if the battery pack is entirely depleted takes 6 hours, using the car's onboard 3.3-kW charger and a 240-Volt Level 2 charging station, but recharging from 20 to 80 percent takes only 3.5 hours.
The 55-kilowatt (74-horsepower) electric drive motor powers the rear wheels, sitting where the 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine of regular Smart cars would be located.
The EPA rates the electric Smart's battery range at 68 miles--more than the Mitsubishi i-MiEV's 62 miles, but less than the 84 miles of the 2014 Nissan Leaf, the best-selling battery-electric car in the U.S.
Visually, there's little difference between the two cars if you avoid the $900 Kinetic Green appearance package that gives you a green-on-white color combination unique to the electric version.
Inside, the Smart's interior is now seriously outdated and severe, although you'll find it adequate for around-town use. The electric Smart uses its two dash-top gauge pods for state-of-charge and power-delivery gauges unique to the battery-powered version.
There's plenty of room inside, even for two adults well over six feet tall, and both passengers sit relatively high, reducing the sense of being in a small car.
If you're not aware that the Smart ends less than 2 feet behind your back, it doesn't drive as small as it actually is--until you park it in a space better suited to a motorcycle than a car.
Aided by its remarkably low lease price--$139 per month if you opt for the Battery Assurance Plus battery-lease program, as almost all customers do--the electric Smart has sold in decent numbers given the small size of the two-seat car market in the U.S.
Since sales of last year's model began in May, Smart has managed to deliver a total of 923 electric ForTwos--or roughly 10 percent of the 9,264 Smarts sold altogether.
If you choose not to lease, the electric Smart's prices begin at $25,750 for the hardtop and $28,750 for the Cabriolet. Both prices are before any incentives, and include the mandatory delivery fee.
The current 2014 model is close to the end of its run, however. An all-new two-seat Smart ForTwo will be introduced later this year, the first complete redesign of the iconic urban car in about 15 years.
That model will continue to be offered in gasoline and electric versions (and perhaps a diesel for Europe as well), and it will spawn other models, including a four-seat Smart ForFour and likely a very small Smart crossover utility vehicle as well.
Reviewed: Smart's Electric Bicycle
Mike Lowe does in depth review of smart's eBike, critiquing its weight and shorter-than-advertised range.
Pocket-Lint 25 Sep 2013
Pedalling through London on the Smart electric bike doesn't feel like riding a bicycle, it's more like gliding along on a two-wheeled spaceship. There's something more, almost, European about this ride than the UK's capital; German-engineered, a little Dutch in appearance, the eBike is a visual melting pot to the eyes.
And it sure is a magnet for the eyes too; a head turner of alien appeal, whether for better or worse. We weren't able to cycle anywhere without being approached about the eBike. From middle-aged observers querying what it was all about, to teens keen to ask a bunch of questions, the eBike broke down usually reserved Londoners' curiosity barriers. Must be the Merc appeal, Smart being a subsidiary of Mercedez-Benz.
But curiosity is one thing, being a viable commuter bicycle is another. After Smart laid on a guided eBike tour of London town our interest was captured, but we wanted more: to know what it was to "own" and live with the eBike in our Zone 2 London pad; to get a feel as to how practical it truly was in a city setting key to its target audience.
After an extended weekend of barely-pedal-powered excursions, foregoing the usual lightweight roadster, we've got mixed feelings about the eBike. Is it as smart as its brand name would suggest or does it feel like a rebadged Boris bike concept with a giant price tag?
Weighing up the options
A power-assisted pedal around town is one thing, taking the eBike back home is another altogether. Like many Londoners we don't live in a full-size house, we live at the top of one - a Victorian one, no less - in a flat conversion. And that means three winding flights of stairs to tackle.
It's at this point the Smart eBike's 26.1kg weight really, really hits home. Literally: the walls are forever scarred from the battle to carry it upstairs. This isn't just elephant in the room kind of stuff, it's like trying to hoist an elephant up the stairs. There's no escaping it, that is heavy. Four stones one pound of heavy.
Put simply: don't buy the Smart eBike if you don't live on the ground floor, your lower back muscles probably won't appreciate it - even if it is, after a casual power-assisted ride, the only exercise you may get from an eBike outing.
The price, too, is just as heavyweight. We've not got out the equivalent in five pound notes and put them on weighing scales to check, but £2500 is a serious wedge of cash. That's pushing to the level of multiple road bike purchases and even touches upon second-hand scooter territory. It's a Smart with Merc-like pricing, no mercy.
But then it is gloriously built. In addition to being an eye-catcher, the Grace-made aluminium frame is full of curves and bends that provide an individual style. It's like someone took a Boris bike and turned the style dial up to 11.
You might not believe that the frame is aluminium though, considering the total weight, but much of that mass comes from elsewhere. The addition of the motor, battery, awesomely responsive disc brakes, broad 26-inch wheels and other what-have-yous all add up.
But we can't bring into question the capabilities of those components. German engineering is a fine thing, and the eBike carries with it that sensibility.
The brushless BionX electric rear-wheel hub motor delivers 200W of power (it's 250W in every other EU country and 300W in the US and Canada) and can propel the eBike forward with up to 15mph of assist.
Oddly, however, we easily got to 16mph before the weight became apparent, and putting feet to the floor managed to muscle in at around 21mph at best - but the effort required for that is like doing leg curls on a gym machine. Believe us, as daily road cyclists this is a whole other experience. It goes from almost nothing to a tonne of bricks around that speed limit - but it's no surprise, if the motor power-assisted beyond 15mph then it wouldn't be considered or taxed as a bicycle.
From A to B
Which is kind of the point. The Smart eBike isn't really for cyclist cyclists. Not the hardcore types anyway. It's for those who dread the Tube commute, who aspire to cycle but don't want to turn up to the office with sweat streaming through the suit jacket. For those who are cooler than a Boris bike.
There's no question of ability or fitness with the eBike, it's the means to an end - getting from A to B without cashing out in yet another black cab, or renewing that £x-thousand rail fare. Plus you get some benefit of actually moving your legs and keeping your mind alert to the roads around, and that's more engaging than the zombiefied commute of many.
And in that sort of light it's an escapist bit of kit. A modern-day gadget that's rather good fun from a commute point of view.
But, conversely, it's not a bike you'd take out for fun. It's to get from A to B, no qualms about it. As road cyclists that feels kind of strange to us as there's not the same joy of invested physical movement, but then for the target audience that's entirely befitting.
Grind those gears
To keep things simple the eBike comes with a three speed gear set. It's an electronic SRAM I-Motion 3, to be exact, and it's particularly interesting as it controls a carbon belt system rather than a chainset typical of normal bikes.
But the eBike is no normal bike. While those above words may not sound exciting, they are. This isn't an oily-chained bicycle. A toothed carbon belt means little maintenance, no rust, no grime, excellent longevity and no slip-ups between gear changes.
At first we were confounded as to how Smart had managed to deliver a geared carbon system. That's the stuff of racecars (and the odd single speed bicycles), right? And, yes, it is. Even if the eBike doesn't feel like a racecar, it delivers some essence of it without you so much as knowing. The carbon belt doesn't physically shift like a chain on a derailleur system would, instead the gear shifting occurs internally to the system that's central to the rear wheel. Cool.
Go, go Gadget bike
If you're unfamiliar with electric bicycles then don't let the concept strike fear if your heart. They're just like normal ones in many respects, except that after a couple of pedal rotations there's this "lift" from the motor. It feels a little floaty - and that side of things was enough to bring a smile to our faces.
You remain in control at all times, however, there's no doubt about that. There's nothing scooter-esque about this experience - it's an assisted bicycle as your legs have to push those pedals. It's a responsive, smooth and easy ride, but the weight makes it a little tricky to manoeuvre through steep angles when stationary, such as in tight traffic.
But you do get some cool controls that feel rather Inspector Gadget. For the eBike to run there's a detachable computer-meets-LCD-screen controller that clips in to the centre of the handlebars. As well as displaying what's going on - current speed, covered distance, battery remaining, range and so forth - it also houses the speed controls, ranging from -4 to +4.
Set to level zero and you'll get a little assistance to keep you bobbing along, set to +4 and you can more or less go up a hill with no hands. Believe us, we went up Highgate Hill - it's a steep incline, and about the only one in London that'll truly challenge even proper cyclists - and were gleefully smiling in the back of our minds, a sweat barely broken.
At the opposite end of the scale -4 feels like absolute torture if you're on flat ground. It's as if you're trying to break your own legs for no good reason. But it has its place: the reverse journey back downhill kept the pace sensible, it's like putting the brakes on without using them. Speaking of which, those front and rear disc brakes are incredibly responsive. Having this "negative" speed control means you needn't feel pant-wettingly scared at any moment however inexperienced you are - whether uphill or downhill the eBike can keep you in a fixed "sensible speed" zone so long as your hands tap to adjust the assisted speed.
However, our one issue with this method of control is the central placement of the controller. At the base curvature of a hill, for example, you'll want to tap to up the speed to ensure you've got the assistance you need. That means removing your hands from the handlebars and, don't forget, this is a heavy bike. It feels a little daunting - why no handlebar-positioned controls like the gears?
It's not all just about speed though: the built-in front and rear LED lights can be controlled from the centre controller too. But not the bell, nope, that's a traditional "ding dinger" mounted on the left handlebar. Ours was a fetching green too. It's the choice of that with a white frame, or a dark grey frame with orange trim.
Smart claims the eBike can deliver up to a 62-mile range on a single charge. It also lobs in a trio of asterisks to ensure every caveat is covered: depends on cyclist (weight), "cycling style" (whatever that means), topography of the route, and, lastly, generator level.
Let's conduct that in English: it means you'll rarely to never get 62-miles out of the eBike. Estimates are tough but we were probably achieving half of that because, like pretty much everyone, you'll spend much of your time on the +4 setting to make everything that much easier.
While that's a definite criticism, the more accurate 35-ish miles we got out of the eBike does translate well enough to cover off the majority of return commutes. Go a bit easier on the juice and you might get 45-miles or more. We didn't, however.
But what you absolutely, completely and utterly cannot let happen is to run out of battery power mid cycle. We avoided letting it run dead because if you get stuck in the sticks without the power assistance you'll feel every single one of those 26.1kgs. It'd be a bit like cutting the floor out of a Hummer and trying to ride it like the Flintstones. And you don't want that to happen.
When it comes to recharging the eBike has a battery port that plugs into the mains like any normal camera, phone or other gadget. A glowing orange circle shows that you're charging back up, a green one shows completion of charge. Thing is it takes 5-hours from dead, which isn't that short really. Get home late and if you forget to plug in then your commute the next day could be in a bit of trouble. Some sort of boosted speed charge to ensure it's always ready to roll would be a help.
The Smart electric bike is an exciting product. The general public told us so with their eyes and their words.
But it feels like a first go at an interesting idea. The sheer weight of the eBike will rule it out for most urban commuters, while the heavyweight near-£2500 price further marginalises it. We get it's of Mercedes blood - buy the accessory lock, which straps onto the rear of the frame, and you'll get a cool Mercedes key - but to demand a Merc price just won't fly for most.
In a practical sense the ease of the ride, the sensitive brakes, the concept of not breaking a sweat, the "look at me" head-turning and that floaty spaceship feeling all come up as positives. And we always advocate getting more non-cyclists into cycling.
But after carrying the eBike up even just one flight of stairs a couple of times you'll be taking it back to the dealer thinking the season ticket looks like a better deal after all.
We've wanted to love the Smart eBike but it just doesn't quite connect with us, and that's considered not from the point of view as cyclists - we threw that hobby out the window for the purpose of this review - but that, despite its positives, the eBike is destined only for a financially sound few who happen to live on the ground floor of a swanky pad. It is, however, way cooler than one of London's Boris bikes.
Smart Fortwo Electric Drive: $139/Mo Love Affair
smart USA is now offering a $139 a month lease on ED model, or it can be purchased with price of battery included, or for even less upfront using a battery lease scheme.
Kelley Blue Book 02 Aug 2013
If you're a conscious consumer, then we've only got a few seconds to convince you that there is a version of the Smart Fortwo that's worth your attention. So here's our pitch: The 2013 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive. This is the plug-in version of the Smart 2-seater, and if you live and work in a densely-populated city — New York, San Francisco, Paris — and spend a lot of time broke, this might just be the ideal car for you. You can lease it for $1,999 down and $139 a month.
That's a flat-out bargain if the car is worth driving. And if your commute is short, your parking options are phone-booth-sized, and "cute" is one of your lifestyle options, then the Smart Fortwo Electric Drive is well worth driving. Plus it's cheap to own — electricity is cheap versus gasoline, and the maintenance on an electric-car drivetrain is pretty much nonexistent.
And unlike the gasoline-powered Smart Fortwo, you won't ever have to ask yourself what you were thinking — because you were thinking $139 a month for a new car. That deal, by the way, is good for Fortwo Electric Drive hardtop models. There's also a convertible version but it's more expensive, and it kind of attracts road noise.
The Fortwo Electric Drive is simplicity to drive. With 96 lb-ft of torque, it's got significantly more power on tap than that the gasoline Fortwo, and with a single-speed transmission integrated into the drivetrain, the roll-on of acceleration is flawless. As with all electric cars, "regenerative" braking plays a part in charging the battery, but the Smart's brake-pedal feel and performance don't suffer because of it. Zipping happily around town all day with the giddy abandon of a Manhattan bike messenger is where the Smart Fortwo Electric Drive belongs. Just remember to keep your freeway driving to a minimum (top speed is 74 mph).
Now, for a practical paragraph: A full charge of the Fortwo Electric Drive will take you 76 miles in the city. With a 240-volt charging station, it takes about six hours to power up and 14 hours with a standard 110-volt setup. And if tiny-car safety is an issue for you, fear not: Smart Fortwos all come defended by the Mercedes-Benz-engineered Electronic Stability Program and a high-strength-steel "safety cell" protecting the driver and passenger.
Inside, the Electric Drive is a riff on the hip, surprisingly roomy (for people, not cargo) Smart Fortwo 2-person interior with a few extra gauges and readouts added to keep you up on the state of the battery charge and performance.
If you decide to purchase instead of lease, the 2013 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive retails for $25,750 (including destination) for the hardtop and $28,750 for the convertible. In addition to the significant tax breaks available for buying electric, you can drop those prices another $5,010 by renting the battery for $80 a month via Smart's Battery Assurance Plus program which essentially guarantees the battery's quality and performance for the life of the car. But we strongly recommend that lease deal, which includes the Battery Assurance Plus benefits.
Smart Electric Driving Around the Big Apple
Tamara Warren reports on her experience driving smart's electric ForTwo in New York City.
Forbes/USA 22 Oct 2012
Smart was the first car in which the minimum became more appealing than the maximum. When the concept was first shown at a 1994 Stuttgart press conference, it looked like a Euro-toy rather than a viable America commuter car. Back then the eye was adjusted to the SUVs that ruled the American cities and small cars were a European phenomenon. But Smart was onto something big, actually. Smart was a green-minded statement car that predated the hybrid Toyota Prius and the electric Chevrolet Volt when it officially launched in 1998 in Europe.
So before I fast forward and talk about driving the forthcoming Smart Fortwo Electric Drive car through the cobble-stoned streets of Brooklyn, let me remind readers that the Smart car concept was quite literally ahead of its time. Cars have inspired many watches, but in the case of Smart it was a watch that actually inspired a car. The vision for the tiny car was first dreamed up by Swatch CEO Nicholas Hayek who began developing his concept in the late 1980s to make a small compact car that functioned like the Swatch watch. Hayek envisioned the city-friendly Swatchmobile to be equipped with a hybrid drive train. According to his 2010 Forbes obituary, he had successfully revolutionized the watch industry. Cars seemed doable. Imagine a hybrid taking America before Bill Clinton was president.
The development of the car faced many delays and subsequent woeful changes as control over Smart switched hands from Volkswagen to Daimler AG, and a host of manufacturing partners that joined forces with Daimler . For the purpose of American buyers and readers, it was the Penske Automotive group that brought the Smart Fortwo to market in 2007 and began the process of leasing 100 electric-drive train Smart fortwo cars in 2011. Smart had a good run with Penske, selling 45,000 vehicles to American customers in 2009, and in 2010 delivered 5,927 units according to The New York Times. While it heralded a dedicated fan base for it’s proportions, critics panned it’s comfort, ride and viability. It seemed that in the green race, Smart had gone the distance and reached its limitations.
But Smart may still have the last laugh for being first in the game.
The prospect of taking full advantage in the Smart car investment was right on time for Mercedes-Benz in the wake of the 2008 recession and new U.S. government standards for vehicles with high fuel economy that were enacted by C.A.F.E. Mercedes-Benz assumed full control of Smart in 2011 from Penske and began tweaking the drivetrain and construction of the Smart car for a very different market. Mercedes-Benz engineers submerged themselves in reimagining Smart Fortwo. Things have been quiet in Smart car land this past year, as Mercedes has done its legwork to get Smart up to speed.
That brings us to Brooklyn in October, where plenty of early model Smarts are wedged in hard-to-come-by alternate side parking spaces. Even in Brooklyn, Mercedes-Benz was bold in turning the keys over to journalists in the bumpy streets of Dumbo for a preview of the Smart Fortwo Electric Drive. Executives were indeed confident that this Smart Fortwo has made strides in the development of a vehicle that has been notoriously painful in the face of a pothole. The first thought that came to mind for this regular-Brooklyn-driver was that in the given circumstances, Electric Drive is a smooth operator. The steering wheel never wiggled and the bumps were mitigated as good as any smallish car due to the firmness of the new chassis. No rattles or knocks were heard in the interior, where space is used to the utmost, down to the mesh pockets behind the seats where I stashed my purse. (I could have used a bigger pocket, but that’s quibbling, isn’t it?) The interior reminds me of how some New Yorkers tackle the feat of living in a small studio apartment.
Of course it’s electric drive, and all systems are quiet on the waterfront. Big and tall guys like my six-ft. plus driving partner will still struggle with legroom and a low-slung roofline, but the average woman or man will be able to maneuver without cramped legs or bruised knees. I drove the Smart Fortwo through stop-and-go traffic and tight streets under construction — the usual New York City hazards. Smart is surprisingly light on its feet. Driving an early model Smart Fortwo in 2007 felt like driving a glass-encased moped, but the new Smart is decidedly more car. Marked design improvements have been made to interior quality and the exterior choices. It’s clean and simple.
The Fortwo is wearing a gussied up Mercedes-Benz suit – a lean, mean 8.8 feet long body composed of high-strength steel. It’s a whole new playing field composed for competition that ranges from gasoline-powered Fiat 500s and Mini Coopers to the electric Nissan Leafs and Mitsubish i-Mievs on the road. The electric engine is installed over the rear wheels and functions off of a signal gear, produced as a joint-venture between Mercedes-Benz and Bosch.
The numbers are a show of its wee, nimble qualities – the 55-kilowatt electric motor provides 35 kilowatts of power that translates to 130 Nm of torque. It reaches from zero to 60 mph in less than 12 seconds, and achieves a modest top speed of 78 mph. It takes 3.5 hours to charge the vehicle partially and six hours for a full charge, according to Smart executives. In other electric features, the cabin is “pre-conditioned” to draw energy from the power grid rather than the battery. An alarm is set to prep the temperature inside the car. In its new gasoline version, the Smart achieves 70 hp and 38 mpg – better than most hybrids tooling around town and on-the-electric zero emissions money.
When Smart Fortwo Electric Drive goes on sale next year, it enters with the lowest price tag on an electric car to date. That’s in the $25,000 ballpark and its convertible counterpart cabriolet model that will sell for $28,000. Assuming taxs laws don’t change, customers will be eligible for federal tax credits (which run up to $7,500) or state/local tax credits. This means Smartfortwo Electric is priced like a competively small car, which should give the smart alecks something to chew on for this time.
“The interior is woefully basic. A semi-soft fabric pasted atop a hard plastic is not exactly “soft touch.” But for many buyers, the car’s simplicity is part of its overall appeal. Smart wants to streamline and de-clutter the driving experience.” AutoWeek
“The rest of the car is pure Smart: easy access, two roomy seats, and plenty of equipment. The version we drove, with the built-in navigation system, had next-to-impossible radio controls, with a single knob for volume control that was so tiny it was hard to grasp.” Consumer Reports
One Smart Electric Bicycle
The Smart eBike will run you $3,700 but less than operating a conventional automobile, especially if used daily for short commutes and errands.
Green Car Reports 10 Oct 2012
After testing the 2013 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive, we were given the opportunity to try out another of Smart's electric vehicles.
Unlike the city car however, this vehicle has only half the number of seats, and half the numer of wheels. It's also, technically speaking, a hybrid--using an electric motor on the rear wheel, and... your legs.
It is of course the eBike, Smart's pedal-electric bicycle. And it could be the most convincing vehicle Smart makes.
On the face of it, the eBike is a perfect fit for the Smart brand, far more so than other car companies which offer branded mountain bikes, skiis, and other assorted corporate-logo'd 'lifestyle' junk.
After all, Smart started with the express purpose of revolutionizing urban transportation, by making parking easier and reducing running costs.
Bicycles may not be a revolution, but they're hard to beat as tools for cutting rapidly across a crowded city.
The bicycle, improved
The main issue with bicycles, to those of us who prefer our transport to have four wheels and a roof, is that you get hot and sweaty when it's dry, and hot, sweaty and wet when it rains.
The eBike won't stop you getting wet when it rains, but thanks to four levels of electric assistance, a large proportion of the physical exertion is removed from every journey.
In fact, it makes all but the toughest inclines a relative pleasure to ascend. You still need to pedal, but the electric motor adds to your own efforts to make the whole process much easier.
It also feels a little more sophisticated than your average bike, with a silent, maintenance-free carbon belt drive between pedals and rear hub, a small LCD display to track your progress, assistance and speed, and built-in front and rear LED lights for safety.
The best Smart?
Our ride took in the cycle-friendly streets of the U.K. town of Milton Keynes.
The pace at which the bike accelerates with only light pedal effort is intitially surprising, though not unwelcome. Only three forward gears are offered but unless you live in a particularly hilly area, you're likely to leave it in top gear most of the time and let electric assistance handle the rest.
Top speed is only 15 mph--any more and the bike would have to be registered as a motorcycle--and that speed is easy enough to hit on the flat and up gentle hills
The relative lack of effort required to make progress is the real benefit, and while we didn't ride far enough to test Smart's claim of 62 miles of assistance, range barely diminished during our 30-minute ride--energy is regained when you brake, just like an electric car.
The touted price of $3,700 is quite expensive, but if you use it to commute every day rather than just keeping it in the garage as a frivolous toy, then it's something of a bargain--after all, a car would be much more expensive.
The Smart eBike, then, is both easy to ride, and fun to use. So much so, that it makes us think that it might be the best vehicle Smart makes.
After all, while the talented Smart Electric Drive is stuck in traffic with all the other cars, eBike users will be able to slide by unhindered, reaching their destination earlier--and not even out of breath.
You'll still get wet when it rains, of course...
Electric Smart Car Lacks Spark
Detroit Free Press automotive columnist pans the smart fortwo electric.
The Republic 17 Apr 2011
The Smart Fortwo Electric Drive is a one-car rolling slowdown on the highway, but it's easy to park, and its owners will never have to buy gasoline again.
And its factory-listed 62.5-mph top speed is a slam-dunk, eat-your-heart-out-Geoffrey Fieger defense against speeding tickets.
I hit an indicated 64 mph in a giddy moment on the Lodge Freeway in Detroit, but that was downhill and in the wake of a Ford Econoline that swerved around me when the driver realized the Smart really was going that slowly.
With lease prices starting at $2,500 down and $599 a month for 48 months, the two-seat Smart Fortwo Electric Drive coupe serves mainly to reinforce the value of the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, both of which cost less and deliver more.
The convertible version of the electric Smart leases for $2,500 down and $649 a month over 48 months.
Both lease prices reflect a $7,500 federal tax credit for the battery-powered car. The Smart Electric Drive is only available by lease, but the sticker price of the coupe I tested was $44,837, excluding destination charges.
Smart plans to sell only a few—about 250 — of the cars. The company says a new version to arrive next year will have new batteries and better performance. It hopes to sell more of those.
The 2011 model uses lithium-ion batteries supplied by electric-car specialist Tesla.
The EPA rates its cruising range at 63 miles on a full charge and says charging from zero to full takes 12 hours at 220 volts.
The Smart Electric Drive delivered on all those numbers over the several days of my test drive. A motivated, hyper-miling EV enthusiast could probably exceed the EPA estimate.
By comparison, the Leaf seats five, matches the Smart's 63-mile EPA range rating and leases for $349 a month, $2,500 down and 36 months.
The Volt's battery-only EPA range is about 35 miles, but its gasoline-powered onboard generator can produce more electricity for a total range of 379 miles.
The Volt leases for $350 a month, $2,500 down over 36 months. The Volt and Leaf lease prices reflect the same federal tax credit as the Smart.
The Smart's electric motor is rated at 20kW for constant use and peak output of 30Kw — 27 and 40 horsepower. It's mated to a single-speed transmission that drives the rear wheels.
Its output looks puny compared with gasoline engines, but the electric Smart weighs just 1,958 pounds, and the motor delivers its full 89 pound-feet of torque immediately. Acceleration is adequate on surface streets.
The drivetrain is smoother than the gasoline-powered Smart's herky-jerky automated manual gearbox. The ride is bumpy. Road and wind noise become very noticeable at highway speeds, or as close to them as the car gets.
The electric Smart has many of the same virtues and faults as the conventionally powered model.
Despite its tiny size — at 106.1 inches long, nearly 3 1/2 feet shorter than a Mini Cooper — the Fortwo provides plenty of room for its two passengers.
Smart cleverly packaged the big battery pack so it does not reduce the car's limited cargo space.
The electric heater warms the interior quickly and effectively.
The interior is trimmed in cloth and not particularly well equipped. There's only one power point, and it's inconveniently close to the two cupholders, which are themselves inconveniently placed on the floor below the center stack, a long reach from the driver's seat.
The less-expensive Volt I drove just after testing the Smart had a navigation system, CD player and two rear seats, among other features the Smart couldn't match.
The Smart Fortwo Electric Drive's gas-free driving provides an initial thrill, but its high cost, low speed and other limitations will send all but the most devoted EV enthusiasts back to the pump.
It's almost like that was the plan all along.
2011 SMART FORTWO ELECTRIC DRIVE PASSION COUPE:
Rear-wheel drive two-passenger subcompact hatchback
—Price as tested: $599 a month four-year lease with $2,500 down payment
—Rating: One out of four stars
—Reasons to buy: Easy to park, battery powered, you won't get speeding tickets
—Shortcomings: Top speed 64 mph, 63-mile range, bumpy ride
Nimble smartfortwo Lives Up to Its Name
It's 8 feet long, gets 60 mpg and is surprisingly roomy.
CNN Money 30 Jul 2006
Titans of the auto industry seldom go out of their way to use the word "small." They don't talk much about small cargo areas or small engines, and particularly when it comes to these SUV-loving shores, they'd rather not think about small cars and the small profits that go with them.
But "small" has been an unavoidable term lately at DaimlerChrysler (Charts). In finding my way into one of the company's ingenious Smart cars, which may or may not soon appear in a showroom near you, I discovered exactly why.
The Smart, for those of you who haven't been to Europe in the past eight years, is a Mercedes sub-brand of "micro-class" cars that's currently available in virtually every Western nation except the United States.
Mercedes just announced that it's finally bringing the Smart to America in 2008, but since that day is still a ways off, I had to hunt one down from someone the Mercedes brass clearly considers a small-fry: Steve Schneider, the CEO of a Santa Rosa, Calif., company called Zap.
Schneider has long believed that the U.S. market is ripe for the Smart - believed it so strongly, in fact, that he's spent years lining up a network of dealers and taking orders for cars not in his possession.
Since Mercedes wouldn't sell to him directly, he's been buying Smarts from third-party brokers, modifying them to meet U.S. regulations, and then flipping them. Still, though Schneider claims to have a backlog of nearly 100,000 orders,
Mercedes can't seem to get past the small thing: As part of its Smart-to-America announcement, it tabbed Roger Penske's United Auto Group to handle its U.S. dealer network.
The test drive
But in the meantime, Schneider's doing brisk business, moving cars off his lot as fast as he can get his hands on them. My tester, Smart's signature two-seater, the ForTwo, was one of just a few in his possession.
I quickly grasped why he wouldn't have it for long. Soon after driving away, I pulled into a gas station and filled up the tank ... for only $20. Before I could screw the gas cap back on, a guy waiting for his SUV to gulp down its huge meal came over. He seemed intrigued, perhaps even envious. "Is it electric?" he asked.
Again, we were at a gas station. Yet I forgave the man his confusion. The ForTwo, nearly 4 feet shorter than a Mini Cooper, looks precisely like the sort of vehicle into which Ed Begley Jr. would origami his gangly frame.
Mine was a convertible, done up in a crisp silver metallic. Inside, the car is surprisingly roomy and, true to its name, cleverly designed. The passenger seat is set back several inches to make the driver's view more panoramic and give the passenger a bit more legroom.
If the driver's flying solo, he can fold the passenger seat flat, turning it into a table with a built-in cupholder. A cargo shelf in back holds enough luggage for a business trip, and the dashboard offers plenty of cubby space for cell phones and BlackBerrys.
Behind the dash, and wrapped all around you, is a stout aluminum-and-steel safety cage. All in all, the ForTwo has that tightly assembled, cocoonlike Mercedes feel.
Driving the Smart offers occasional similarities to piloting its upmarket siblings too. My house is at the end of a winding hillside road, and the ForTwo, with its wheels pushed far into its corners, handled the curves with go-cart aplomb.
That said, the three-cylinder turbocharged engine, while an aluminum miracle at only 130 pounds, certainly can't be mistaken for a Mercedes V-8. Soon I learned to stop flooring it and let the engine and the six-speed manu-matic transmission do their thing at a more leisurely pace, freeing me to wave at gawking kids and roll down the window to answer the endless string of questions.
In fact, I became a rather shameless huckster. Knowing that Mercedes previously aborted its plans to launch the Smart in the States at the 11th hour, I decided to do my part to build some buzz for the brand's impending arrival.
I drove right into the heart of my village on a crystalline, farmers'-market Sunday and looked for a place to park. All the curbside spots were taken, but that didn't deter me.
I simply found a gap between two parked cars and pulled in. Perpendicularly. With the front wheels squared against the curb, the Smart's little rear end didn't stick out much past the cars next to it. Having sufficiently captured the attention of the strawberry-nibbling crowd, I got out and started chatting them up.
That's right, I explained: 60 miles per gallon. Starts at about $12,500 in Europe. Yes, I agreed, it's about time. Whether or not the automakers are ready to hear it, on this sunny summer day in the U.S. of A., their customers were talking quite a lot - and the topic of conversation was, of all things, the limitless opportunity that is small.
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