Better to drive than standard car, but lease cost is prohibitive

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

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Cognog 21 December 2009

Re: Smart Electric Drive

I note that the specification on this car claims zero emissions. In practice this is not the case as the emissions go up the powerstation chimney. The government,, being very cunning, has officially defined vehicle emissions as that coming from the tailpipe and as electric cars do not have tailpipes they magically appear to emit nothing!!. Do not be conned by this; as actually electric cars emit more than an equivalent diesel; but of course you don't see it unless you look at Drax power station chimney.

In fact claiming zero emissions for an electric car without explaining all this and making it clear where the emissions are produced is contrary to EU Directive "Unfair Consumer Practices" 2005/29/EC which came into UK law in June 2007.

Calculation of the BMW MiniE emissions based on the 430g/KWhr current grid emission figure gives 111 grams CO2 per kilometre against 104 grams for the Mini diesel. OK we might quibble about the details but the principle is sound.]

The fact is that every KwHr used has produced 430 grams of CO2. Best not forget that when considering buying one of these vehicles.Trust me I am an engineer.

ThwartedEfforts 16 December 2009

Re: Smart Electric Drive

BigEd wrote:

that would make British electricity cost 8.5p for a KWh

We've covered this. npower's standard night rate is 4.1p per kWh.

MrTrilby 16 December 2009

Re: Smart Electric Drive

BigEd wrote:
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?
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.