From £9,220
Better to drive than standard car, but lease cost is prohibitive

Our Verdict

Smart Fortwo 2007-2014
The design of the ForTwo stretches back to the Eco Sprinter and Eco Speedster concepts of 1993

The Smart Fortwo is a unique proposition. Its emotional appeal is unquestionable and it is one of the most novel and innovative cars available.

  • First Drive

    Smart Fortwo Electric Drive

    
Electric power suits this perky Smart, which works well as city wheels. And with a £5000 government subsidy it’s well-priced, too
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    Smart Fortwo Brabus

    Hot hatch looks for refreshed Fortwo city car, but it’s still a case of style over substance
11 December 2009

What is it?

In 2007 Smart built 100 electrically driven Fortwo prototypes, which were engineered in the UK by Zytek. Since then, the cars have been under test in central London by real-world drivers.

Building on that experience, the company has now released the second-generation version of the Smart Electric Drive model. A thousand examples of the new model will be built at the Smart factory in France and will be rolled out this month across eight European countries.

What’s it like?

The battery and electric motor have been upgraded on the second-generation cars. Smart has sourced a lithium ion battery from Tesla that can work at normal ambient temperatures. The NaNiCL battery in the first-gen car needed to be heated up to work properly and was wrapped in an insulative casing.

The Smart’s electric motor also gets a power boost, offering a peak output of around 40bhp for two minutes, though in normal conditions it offers the same 27bhp as the previous model. The transmission couldn’t be simpler. It’s a single, fixed ratio, which just offers the driver forward and reverse.

There’s little doubt that the Smart Electric Drive is appreciably better to drive then the internal combustion version. The combination of the super-smooth electric motor and the direct-drive transmission removes at a stroke the standard-issue Smart’s Achilles' heel of momentary torque interruption when changing gear.

It’s not super-quick off the line (it’s a hefty 140kg heavier than the diesel version), but the motor’s seamless torque makes it a cinch to drive in the tangled traffic around Monaco.

This car also seemed to suffer noticeably less understeer than the standard model. The tweaks may be connected to the car’s limited top speed, but in any case it’s an improvement over the standard model.

It can be recharged from a domestic socket in eight hours, which gives it an 85-mile range. The charging costs work out at about £1 for every 60 miles of range.

Should I buy one?

It’s not in full factory production until 2012, but what will really hamper the success of the Smart Electric Drive are the very high leasing costs of this otherwise nifty city car.

Smart bosses are predicting that it will cost around £700 per month to lease, a direct consequence of the cost of the battery. Without significant tax UK breaks, it is likely to remain a green curio.

Join the debate

Comments
14

14 December 2009

[quote Autocar]The charging costs work out at about £1 for every 60 miles of range.[/quote]

are you sure?

that works out around 6 kWh of electricity worth at UK electricity prices of ~16p/kWh.

6 kWh isn't going to get you very far, very fast. a Tesla's battery capacity is around 55 kWh from memory. would expect the Smart's to be around 15 kWh min. so a full charge - 80% of battery capacity - should cost at least closer to £2, without transformer losses.

have you got the spec. from Smart?

14 December 2009

I've just checked my notes from the informal presentation and I was quoted '2 Euros per battery charge, around 100km for £1' The Tesla battery is 16.5kW

14 December 2009

[quote HiltonH]The Tesla battery is 16.5kW[/quote]

ahem, if you mean the Tesla Roadster car battery's capacity, according to Wiki it's 53 kWh.

14 December 2009

[quote BigEd]The Tesla battery is 16.5kW[/quote]

so the Smart Electric Drive's battery is supplied by Tesla and has 16.5 kWh capacity.

I still don't see how expending up to 16 kilowatt hours of domestic electricty, without transformer loss, at a UK-typical ~16p/kWh, allows the Smart PR man to say '60 miles of motoring can be had for one pound''s worth of electricity'? I would say at least double that, unless they will always be charged up at most advantageous nightime price tariffs and so on.

14 December 2009

[quote BigEd]unless they will always be charged up at most advantageous nightime price tariffs and so on.[/quote]Precisely. They would have seized upon some seriously cheap introductory rate on a night tariff with internet-only bills and probably a bit of cheating on pricing tiers - and in which case you're looking at around 4p per kwh for the purposes of a guffy PowerPOint presentation...

14 December 2009

a further thought.

if it wasn't for the around 200% tax levied on road fuel in UK http://www.petrolprices.com/price-of-petrol.html the cost of motoring by the latest, around >=50mpg diesel engined vehicles would be about the same or a liitle less than by electrical power:

60 miles range at ~£2 electricity cost against 5/6 litres of diesel at 30p per litre cost.

plus, Li ion battery packs cost around $500 per kilowatt-hour, making a sub £10k city runaround fantasy.

all those thinking electric is the future, be warned that once govts. get EVs established in the minds of the public the cost of electricity, for EV use, will shoot up, by taxing, against the 5% VAT only domestic tax level now, similar to the penal rates of tax on petrol/diesel now.

that is why AGW is being used to break down resistance to uneconomical EVs and pave the way for 20/30/40p per kWh electricity cost, off the back of carbon save the world taxes, before 2020.

besides, how else would the companies, all foreign, French, German, American, set to build UK's new ten or so nuke plants make a return on the astronomical cost of building - £100bn - and running nuclear power generation plants, even without the costs of waste processing and decommissioning, unless they were guaranteed the ability to raise prices dramatically without hindrance from regulators?

it's a con.

15 December 2009

[quote BigEd]it's a con. [/quote]

Couldn't agree more.

15 December 2009

[quote Autocar]

It can be recharged from a domestic socket in eight hours, which gives it an 85-mile range. The charging costs work out at about £1 for every 60 miles of range.[/quote]

sorry mate, you were being a bit economic with the actualité there:

Smart Electric Drive

100 km, 62 miles according to Smart would need 12 kWh, at 20 cents per kWh on the continent, for a cost of €2.40. so how in the world did you get £1? that would make British electricity cost 8.5p for a KWh, were you using 2002 prices?

oh, plus the electric car would cost €13k more than the petrol engined one.

16 December 2009

Let me think -

Smart electric drive - "cost around £700 per month"

BMW 7-series 740Li - £702. 45 per month

Decisions, decisions

16 December 2009

[quote BigEd]2 miles according to Smart would need 12 kWh, at 20 cents per kWh on the continent, for a cost of €2.40. so how in the world did you get £1? that would make British electricity cost 8.5p for a KWh, were you using 2002 prices?[/quote] Using an Economy 7 style tariff, depending on which supplier you go with, the night rate is around 5p per kWh. That's comfortably below your 8.5p. I'm not sure your criticism of Autocar is warranted in this instance.

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