Smart has revealed a new electric-powered, single track vehicle called the escooter at the Paris motor show.
Sources at parent company Mercedes-Benz describe the plug-in concept as the first step in a newly established diversification plan for its stuggling city car division.
The new two-wheeler is being developed as part of a new broad-based mobility strategy aimed at taking Smart into market segments beyond that occupied by its newly facelifted Fortwo and an upcoming rear-engined,-rear-wheel-drive successor to its short-lived Forfour that's due to be launched in 2013.
Based around a steel and aluminium frame with interchangeable plastic panels – features mirrored on the Fortwo – the escooter is powered by a 4kW electric motor mounted beneath the seat and driving the rear wheel.
The brushless unit draws energy from a 48-volt lithium ion battery mounted in the floor area with a capacity of 80Ah – sufficient, says Smart, for a range of up to 62 miles in typical city traffic.
Charging is via a socket located underneath the hinged Smart emblem at the front. Additional energy is supplied by solar cells mounted within the panel at the front of the escooter.
Drawing on parent company Mercedes-Benz’s safety know-how, Smart has provided the escooter with energy-recouping brakes that require a squeeze of a single traditional handlebar-mounted lever to operate both the front and rear discs. They also feature an anti-lock system.
Also included is an airbag. Mounted inside the panel beneath the handlebars, it is designed to provide protection to the torso and legs in the case of a frontal impact.
Other neat touches include Blind Spot Assist. As with Mercedes’ more recent models, it uses a small rectangular lamp mounted in the rear-view mirrors to warn of objects in the blind spot – the typical cause of accidents on scooters.
The controls are taken care of by a smartphone that slots into the centre of the handlebars to provide information on speed and energy levels, as well as acting as a communication and navigation device. A pop-out seat, meanwhile, is designed to accommodate a pillion passenger.
"Smart was originally established to tackle the need for improved mobility, especially in congested city environments. Up to now we have concentrated our efforts on four-wheel solutions," a senior Mercedes-Benz official revealed to Autocar.
"The next stage is to looking at how to expand beyond this with other environmentally friendly vehicles.”