Electric prototype may herald a safe, zero-pollution urban micro car

What is it?

The car driven here is a prototype 450-series Smart ED. Engineered by UK-based Zytek, this 450-series prototype loses the three-cylinder engine and self-shifting 'box. Instead, it gets a 35bhp electric motor driving an adapted Getrag 'box which is locked into second gear, offering just forward, reverse and neutral.

However, it will be replaced next year with the 41bhp 451-series Smart ED. This new model will use a new lithium-ion battery pack and various low-consumption electrical systems, including a new heating and air-con unit.

Around 1000 450s will be built and rolled out for test around in various global cities. In 2012 series production will commence at the Smart factory in Hambach, France. Smart sources estimate that eventually around 10 per cent of production – around 1500 units – will be Smart EDs.

What's it like?

The only way you know the Smart ED is powered up is the very gentle hum from behind the seats. The accelerator requires a hard push to wind the car up, but the acceleration is breezy and adequate for town driving.

Smart’s test route was along the hump-strewn streets of east London, probably the single most hostile environment to a car with such a short wheelbase. Predictably, once up to a reasonable pace, the Smart would pitch and heave markedly over bumps.

On streets that haven’t been re-surfaced by anti-car fanatics, the Smart was smooth, eerily quiet and ridiculously easy to reverse and park. Best of all, the car emits absolutely no pavement-side pollution, unlike a diesel car.

While this prototype has many of the old Smart rough edges (dead feeling brakes, slow steering at slow speeds) it’s clear from driving the latest diesel Smart on the same route that the new model is much more polished.

Perhaps the best news is that the electric Smart isn’t hampered by the mid-shift engine braking that has been such a problem with Smarts since launch and still affects - to a much lesser degree, admittedly - the newest models.

Should I buy one?

You’ll have to wait until 2012 when the 451-series model finally goes into series production. The first 1000 451s will be scattered across the globe for further real world testing with the new lithium-ion batteries and revised electrical systems.

Still, the production ED could turn out to be the definitive Smart - a serious, safe, zero-pollution urban micro car.

Please note the car travels from 0-30mph in 6.5sec, not 0-62mph as specified in the data table below. Unfortunately, the table cannot currently be reformatted.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Orangewheels 15 June 2009

Re: Smart Fortwo ED

superstevie wrote:
from edinburgh to london on 1 tank of fuel with room to spare! Which Ive done recently

Great MPG figures but not exactly the ideal motorway car! how do you find stability when lorries go past?

NiallOswald 14 June 2009

Re: Smart Fortwo ED

Looking elsewhere, it's 0-30mph in 6.5 seconds. I've no idea how this compares to other 'city cars', all I remember is that an Audi RS2 does the same increment in about 2 seconds.

I'd be interested to know what the 0-60 time is - from reading elsewhere this is actually limited (which probably means that at 60mph, the motor is at maximum rpm but less than 100% torque). If you consider that the 45bhp Smart CDI is capable of 85mph (which I believe is limited - may be wrong) and that power requirement increases* with the cube of velocity, this would make sense.

I'd like to know what the torque curve looks like, and whether or not they're operating the motor with field weakening (constant power). To make a single-speed EV as quick from the off as an equivalently powerful geared/ICE car, it's pretty much essential.

*Assuming aero drag dominates...

superstevie 14 June 2009

Re: Smart Fortwo ED

as a smart owner, i like the idea of havin an electric one. However, my diesel is hardly costing a thing to run (free road tax, 60 - 65mpg in town with lots of stop start driving and no stop/start function) and the ability to go from edinburgh to london on 1 tank of fuel with room to spare! Which Ive done recently, 437 miles, 27.5l used (out of 33) and 72mpg. I reckon the electric cars will be used more by businesses who need city transport only, or those who never leave london, than the average motorist.