Enjoy the silence in 2013 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive
June 29, 2012
The 2013 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive performs well in the urban settings it was designed for.
I?ve just driven the smartest Smart yet and most poignantly, in the environment for which it was designed.
All of a sudden, Smart makes sense.
After a five-year gestation period that included numerous worldwide test drive initiatives, the Smart Fortwo Electric Drive, now in its third generation, is ready for prime time.
Manoeuvring silently through the winding, narrow and congested streets of Berlin, feeling the instant shove of electric torque (without the incessant lurching of the gas model?s transmission-from-hell), darting through holes in the traffic and parking, well, anywhere, this was a very happy Smart at home in its world. And it made me happy.
No surprise really. As Dr. Annette Winkler, vice president of Smart pointed out, ?The Fortwo was designed from the beginning to be electric.?
The 2013 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive arrives in Canada in the spring of 2013 priced at $26,990 for the Coupe and $29,990 for the Cabriolet. This is before the provincial Ontario rebate of $8,500.
But before we get into the nuts and volts, let?s look at the big picture.
Here in Berlin, the electric Smart truly is a smart device. There are over 100 public charging station and with European household current at 220 volts, you just plug and go ? if you can call a seven-hour zero-to-full charge time ?go.? In Toronto, we can count the charging stations on one hand and as with all Canadian EV purchasers, a 240-volt home charging station (about $2,500) is a must.
In reality, the Smart Electric Drive will function in North America mainly as an eco-trinket for early urban adopters, sharing space in the garage with at least one other vehicle. But it is a cheeky and charming trinket that?ll tickle you green for every silent kilometre covered.
Range anxiety? ?Range is not an issue for our customers.? says Winkler. ?They want solutions for urban mobility.? Translation: If you keep this guppy in its fish bowl and don?t expect to run with the sharks, the claimed 145 km range in city traffic will do just fine. Running at its 125 km/h maximum on Highway 401 will see your range drop faster than Rob Ford?s approval rating.
The 55-kilowatt electric motor is a Daimler/Bosch joint venture and with a zero to 100 km/h time of 11.5 seconds, this electric Smart leaves the 1.0L three-cylinder gas car in its dust. Additionally, the clutchless single-step transmission means bye-bye to the gas Smart?s halting five-speed sequential box and the accompanying ?Smart head-bob.?
Other Smart Fortwo attributes ? comfortable seats, generous headroom and legroom, panoramic forward visibility, meaty steering ? carry forward. In the minus ledger, the regenerative brakes are a bit odd and the ride is still pitchy on the rough stuff, although it is slightly improved because of the extra weight of the battery that lives in the sandwich floor beneath the seats. The electric Smart weights 160 kg more than the gas version.
While the previous generation electric Smart used a battery supplied by Tesla, this 17.6 kWh lithium-ion pack was developed in-house. It?s pretty much the same size and weight and packs just a bit more power density, but it has been engineered for durability. Smart confidently predicts after 10 years of normal use, this battery will retain 80 per cent of its original capacity.
In Europe there is the option of buying the Smart for a reduced price without the battery and paying a monthly lease charge. We won?t get that in Canada, but the battery is covered for four years under the car?s standard warranty.
As with the Nissan Leaf, there is a phone app (Apple and Android but no BlackBerry yet) that lets you monitor and control charge functions as well as preset the cabin temperature while the car is on the grid. Cleverly, the navigation takes topography into consideration when calculating range ? if your journey is uphill all the way you don?t want any unpleasant surprises.
This electric Smart gets additional insulation in the doors and bulkhead to reduce HVAC energy consumption ? one of the biggest power drains, and especially in Canada where we have such wide temperature swings. Standard comfort features include air conditioning, power windows, heated seats and electrically adjustable heated mirrors.
The classic bugeye gauges atop the dash show battery charge and power usage, with the needle of the latter swinging to the right when drawing power from the battery, and to the left when regenerating. It also indicates when the car is ?on? because with zero engine noise, there?s no way of knowing. A digital readout gives your ?eco-score? and remaining range.
Optional will be a pedestrian alert sound, which I would highly recommend after trying to negotiate through festivities at the Brandenburg Gate marking the 25th anniversary of former U.S. president Ronald Reagan?s speech where he famously said, ?Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!?
Another recommendation would be to fork out for the cabriolet ? the soft-top suits the Smart as much as this electric drivetrain. If you?re going to glide about in eco-stealth, why not bask in the beautiful silence?
2013 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive
BASE PRICE/AS TESTED: $26,990/$29,990
ENGINE: 55 kW electric motor
FUEL CONSUMPTION: N/A
POWER/TORQUE: 74 hp/96 lb.-ft.
COMPETITION: Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi iMiEV, Ford Focus EV
WHAT?S BEST: silent, fun to drive, zero emissions
WHAT?S WORST: limited functionality, almost double the price of gas coupe before rebate
WHAT?S INTERESTING: Canada?s least expensive electric car