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Smart to Preview New Battery Car in Frankfurt

Maker will also unveil new battery-powered bicycle.

by on Aug.16, 2011

Smart adds range and boosts performance with the third-generation Fortwo Electric Drive.

Daimler’s troubled Smart car brand hopes to charge up consumers when it rolls out an all-new version of the Fortwo Electric Drive at the upcoming Frankfurt Motor Show.

Smart claims the third-generation battery drive system will deliver both better range and improved acceleration, trimming by 1.5 second the time needed to reach 60 kmh.  The newest version of the Fortwo Electric Drive is expected to go on sale in 30 markets – including North America – during the second quarter of 2012.  And Smart parent Daimler AG anticipates the improvements will yield a five-fold increase in sales compared to the outgoing battery car.

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Meanwhile, Smart has also announced it will move ahead with plans to diversify its line-up with the launch of a new “eBike.”

Smart initially launched a limited production version of the Fortwo ED last year.  But it received complaints about sluggish performance and limited range.  To overcome those concerns, the maker has shifted to a new version of the vehicle’s lithium-ion battery and revised the motor drive system, as well.

Smart's new electric bike.

The ED now gets a 17.7 kilowatt-hour LIon battery.  The earlier model had a 16.5 kWh pack.  That is expected to boost range to 87 miles, a 5-mile improvement.  Recharge times should be 8 hours using a 220-volt source, and barely an hour, the maker claims, with a 440-volt high-speed charger.

The gen-3 ED’s brushless motor now produces 33 horsepower, a 7-hp increase, while torque rises from 73 lb-ft to 96.

The new version of the Electric Drive will launch from 0 to 60 kmh (37 mph) in 5.0 seconds, a 1.5-second improvement.  Meanwhile, its top speed has been increased from 62 mph to 75 mph, which Smart hopes will improve the battery car’s appeal to American motorists.

Significantly, for the third-generation battery car Smart has abandoned the driveline supplied by American electric vehicle maker Tesla, migrating to a rear-drive system provided by Deutsche ACCUmotive.  The move is a setback for Tesla, which had hoped to become a major partner with Germany’s Daimler – but it has meanwhile been expanding its relationship with Toyota, recently reporting Tesla may soon ink a billion-dollar deal with the Japanese giant.  (Click Here for more on that story.)

With the improvements to the system, Smart believes it can significantly boost demand for the Fortwo Electric Drive.  It is planning to sell 10,000 of the battery vehicles, compared to just 2,000 for the earlier version of the ED.

For those who don’t think a battery car is green enough, the German maker is offering an even more modest form of battery-powered personal transportation.  Its new eBike will feature a 0.4 kWh lithium-ion battery that powers a 250-watt rear hub motor.

A handlebar-mounted controller will permit the rider to shift to any of four different modes, from standard human power to full electric drive, as well as a system that can draw some battery power on particularly tough terrain.

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