Will Smart find 250 customers for the battery version of its fortwo microcar -- at twice the price and with an 82-mile range?
It’s not the traffic we find ourselves watching out for, though there’s plenty of it on the busy streets of Brooklyn, but the potholes, massive gaps in the pavement that yawn wide and threaten to engulf our entire little microcar.
It’s not a job but an adventure, at times, taking tomorrow’s cars out for a ride, though few draw as many glances – some admiring, others just agape — as the 2011 Smart fortwo Electric Drive. Call it the ED, for short, a battery-powered version of the French-German microcar.
The auto industry, as a whole, is increasingly coming to embrace the concept of electrification, with plug-in hybrids, like the Chevrolet Volt, and pure battery-electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf. Even Mercedes-Benz is exploring its options, all the way up to a battery-powered version of its SLS supercar.
But the German maker’s sibling brand, Smart, seems especially well-suited to enter the electric field, delivering a battery version of its nimble little two-seater that was already targeted to the urban market.
Smart will launch sales of 250 EDs in the U.S., late this year, complimenting the fleet of more than 1,500 it will put on the road in Europe. Plans call for launching full retail sales in 2012 as a 2013 model. But the maker hopes to learn a lot, by then, as the original crop of guinea pigs, er, buyers put their EDs through the rigors of daily motoring.
(Click Here to see how Smart is betting on the ED to revive the brand.)
Stay Charged Up!
To get a sense of what they’re likely to discover, I headed to Brooklyn, earlier this week, where I squeezed into a fully-charged microcar alongside my colleague from TheDetroitBureau.com, Joe Szczesny.