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Smart “All-In” on Battery-Cars

U.S. only getting Fortwo ED, however.

by on Sep.30, 2016

Green machine: The Smart Fortwo ED Cabriolet makes its debut at the Paris Motor Show.

Range anxiety remains one of the biggest concerns for consumers considering a battery-electric vehicle but it’s less of a concern for those who might only need their vehicles for short runs in dense urban settings. And that could play out well for the little Smart brand.

Daimler AG’s city car subsidiary plugged into the Paris Motor Show with a trio of next-generation battery-electric vehicles, one for each of Smart’s models. The preview was part of a broader series of announcement about electrification that included the launch of the new Mercedes-EQ brand-within-a-brand.

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“Smart is going all-in on battery power,” declared Daimler AG Chairman and CEO Dieter Zetsche, as the newest Smart Electric Drive trio drove onto the stage.


Daimler Investing Around $8 Bil on “Green” Powertrains by 2018.

New, 300-mile electric Mercedes set to debut at Paris Motor Show.

by on Jun.13, 2016

Mercedes plans to launch a new hydrogen car with a plug-in battery system to boost mileage.

Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler AG will invest more than seven billion euros, or $8 billion, on green powertrains over the next two years – about half of its total R&D budget — the automaker said today.

That effort will include a mix of different technologies, including fuel-cell vehicles and clean diesels, as well as various battery drive systems. The maker said that “all” of its vehicle lines will be “electrified” by 2020, with sales of such models expected to be in the “six figures” by then, according to Daimler R&D chief Thomas Weber.

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“We will electrify all Mercedes-Benz passenger car model series step by step,” said Weber,the executive last week announcing that a prototype of a new models capable of 500 kilometers, or about 310 miles per charge, will be revealed at the Paris Motor Show in October.


Mercedes Latest Trying to Tackle Tesla

Planning 311-mile battery vehicle.

by on Sep.08, 2015

Mercedes entered the California battery-car market with the new B-Class Electric Drive.

The list of manufacturers hoping to tackle Tesla with an extended-range battery car has just grown longer, and Mercedes-Benz apparently has more than one model in mind as it tries to outgun the upstart California carmaker.

Along with an assortment of plug-in hybrids, Mercedes’ R&D chief says it is developing a modular platform that, in at least one model, should deliver up to 500 kilometers, or about 312 miles, per charge. Among other makers looking to push into Tesla territory are Audi, BMW, General Motors and Nissan.

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“We are working on an intelligent concept for a highly attractive electric vehicle with a range of (anywhere from 228 to 312 miles),” Research and Development board director Thomas Weber told the magazine Auto Motor und Sport.


Smart Electric Drive Named America’s “Greenest” Vehicle; Ram 2500 the “Meanest”

Battery cars, hybrids dominate Top 10, while full-size pickups and sports car rank at the bottom.

by on Jan.28, 2014

The third-generation Smart Fortwo Electric Drive is named the "Greenest Vehicle" on U.S. roads.

The 2-seat Smart ForTwo Electric Drive battery car is the most environmentally friendly vehicle on American roads, according to the 2014 Greenest Vehicles list, with an assortment of battery-electric vehicles, plug-ins, hybrids – and one natural gas model – rounding out the Top 10.

The Smart ED, as it’s often called, scored a record 59 out of 100 possible points, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.  But Toyota and Honda overwhelming dominate the ACEEE list of “Greenest” models.  At the other end of the spectrum, Chrysler’s Ram 2500 gets razzed as the “Meanest” vehicle on the market with a score of just 18.

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“We’ve had such an influx of hybrid and electric vehicles in recent years that the race to earn a spot on the “Greenest” list is more competitive than ever, particularly for conventional vehicles,” said ACEEE lead vehicle analyst Shruti Vaidyanathan, adding that, “It’s encouraging to see automakers investing heavily in eco-savvy vehicles on the whole.”


Smart to Offer Market’s Lowest-Priced EV

Compact size, compact price.

by on Oct.05, 2012

Smart adds a bigger battery to boost range and performance with the 2013 fortwo ED.

Why aren’t consumers getting charged up about battery cars? That’s the question a lot of folks have been asking as sales lag well behind earlier expectations.

Range is clearly a concern, motorists worrying about being able to go – with most models – less than 100 miles per charge. But the big issue appears to be price. Electric vehicles simply carry too steep a premium for many potential buyers.

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That’s something little Smart hopes to address when it introduces what it is billing as the lowest-priced battery vehicle coming to the U.S. market from a major manufacturer. The 2013 Smart fortwo ED – short for Electric Drive – will carry a base price of just $25,780. (Not including a $750 delivery charge.)


3rd Generation Smart Electric Goes into Production

Price jumps sharply over original plans, however.

by on Jun.13, 2012

Production of the Smart ED launches at the maker's plant in Hambach, France.

Production of the third-generation Smart Electric Drive, or ED, has begun and buyers in Germany will soon be able to plug them into the nearest charging station.

But buyers will have to accept a sharp price increase, about 20% above what Smart officials had indicated just last autumn when they announced plans for the new battery car.  But the Gen-3 Smart ED will also get better performance and range than was originally planned.

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The new version of the 2-seater will initially launch in Germany but is expected to then roll out in 30 other markets, including North America.

Just last September, Smart CEO Annette Winkler had indicated, “We are offering the new electric smart within our sale&care model for considerably less than EUR 16,000 before tax – plus less than EUR 60 per month for battery rental.”


Smart Powers Up with Brabus Battery Car and Bike

Brabus adds a little bunch to Smart's battery line-up.

by on Mar.06, 2012

A "heart of green" for the Smart Brabus battery car.

We’re still a good two years away from finally seeing an all-new Smart car – with the Daimler microcar division planning to partner with the Renault/Daimler Alliance for its replacement.  But the fruit of another partnership is making its debut at the Geneva Motor Show today.

European tuner Brabus, best known for some high-performance takes on Mercedes-Benz products, is weighing in with an earth-friendly green version of the Smart ED.

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For those who aren’t convinced that a battery car really can deliver a sporty ride the Smart Brabus electric drive will even feature a special external audio system to give it a sports car-like sound.

The modified ED makes 60 kilowatts — or 80 horsepower — and 100 lb-ft of torque from its lithium-ion battery pack and single electric motor.  And Brabus has shod the green-and black 2-seater with 17-inch alloy wheels to make sure that power gets to the pavement.


Smart Forvision Envisions a Better Microcar

Maker’s new 2-seater will be based on Renault technology.

by on Sep.19, 2011

The battery-powered Smart Forvision concept provides a hint of the next-generation Smart Fortwo.

Struggling Smart is offering up a vision of what could be the future of its two-seat Fortwo microcar.

The new Smart Forvision concept vehicle on display at the Frankfurt Motor Show is a long-delayed and much-needed replacement for a vehicle that has become increasingly outdated even as the competition floods the market with an assortment of hipper, more technically sophisticated alternatives.

The Forvision follows the unveiling of the earlier Fospeed cabriolet concept which was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year.

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“We’ve used all the tricks in the book,” said Thomas Weber, a senior executive with Smart parent Daimler AG, during the prototype’s preview in Frankfurt.

That notably includes finding a partner to help develop the microcar.  In the decade since Smart launched Daimler has struggled to come up with a working business strategy for its smallest brand.  It has lost billions on Smart and abandoned all earlier models but the Fortwo.

The Smart Forvision concept makes extensive use of carbon-fiber-based composites.

Going forward, the new business case will call for partnering with the Euro-Asian Renault/Nissan alliance.  The partners have agreed to a variety of joint ventures, as reported last week.  (Click Here for more.) Among other things, the new Mercedes AMF platform used for the maker’s next-generation B-Class will serve as the foundation of a new Infiniti model based on the Etherea concept.  Meanwhile, Renault’s latest microcar “architecture,” developed for its little Twingo model , will be shared with future Smart models – including the Fortwo replacement.

In concept form, the Forvision introduces a variety of intriguing technologies for the microcar segment – many of them developed with the assistance of yet another partner, German chemical giant BASF.

Those include plastic wheels that weigh about 7.5 pounds less than even aluminum wheels.  A carbon-fiber epoxy resin was used for the passenger compartment and doors, meanwhile, reducing weight by 50% compared to steel and 30% versus aluminum.  But the composite material is even stronger than conventional materials and would improve passenger safety if put into production, Daimler officials suggested.

The Forvision was shown in battery car form, underscoring the brand’s interest in electric technology.  Some of the technologies shown in Frankfurt would prove particularly useful in the next-generation Smart Electric Drive, or ED.

For one thing, special insulation was used to reduce the power consumption of the Smart Forvision climate control system.  Using a heater in the winter can reduce range of battery-electric vehicles, like the current Smart ED or Nissan Leaf, by as much as half.

How much of the Forvision concept will carry over into production remains to be seen.  The lightweight resin materials will be a challenge considering their costs – which normally limit the use of composites to ultra-luxury vehicles – but manufacturers are pressing hard to drive down costs and improve manufacturability.  BMW is betting on that as it prepares to launch its own battery-based sub-brand with models like the i3 and i8.

The all-new Smart is expected to reach showrooms sometime next year.

That’s none too soon for the little brand.  Sales have been in a sharp slump, especially in the key U.S. market, despite rising fuel prices.  Since its American introduction in 2008, sales are off by more than two-thirds and analysts remain skeptical whether even an updated version of the Smart Fortwo will reverse that decline.


First Look: Smart ForSpeed

Two-seater emphasizes green performance.

by on Feb.25, 2011

Who says you can't have fun driving a battery car? Smart ForSpeed puts a premium on performance.

Daimler’s Smart brand is clearly plugging into battery power.  The maker’s new ED – short for Electric Drive – has just gone on sale here in the U.S.  And at the Geneva Motor Show, next week, Smart will offer a hint of where it might plan to take the technology going forward.

The intriguing news is that the Smart ForSpeed puts as much of a premium on performance as it does on energy efficiency.  The lithium-ion-powered two-seater reportedly can launch from 0 to 60 (kilometers an hour, that is) in just 5.5 seconds.  Getting to 60 mph takes just under 9 seconds.

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The concept relies on a compact 41-horsepower electric motor.  That might not seem like much but it helps to realize that electric propulsion generates maximum torque the moment the motor starts spinning.  But there’s also a “boost” switch on the center console that unleashes an extra 7 horsepower when you’re really hoping to burn rubber.

Smart anticipates a top speed of 75 mph for the ForSpeed and, if you’re a bit less aggressive with the throttle, range of about 85 miles.  A quick charger, it claims, can yield an 80% recharge in as little as 45 minutes.

The ultra-thin seats come with four-point belts to keep you firmly in place when you’re challenging that old-style muscle car in the next lane, by the way.


Hertz To Rent Smart Electric Cars

Rental company planning a fleet of battery cars.

by on Dec.06, 2010

A Smart Electric Drive cruises New York.

Want to see if you can live with an electric vehicle? Your first step may be to check the fleet at your local Hertz rental office.  The nation’s largest daily rental company is charging into the emerging battery car market, and plans to add the new Smart Electric Drive model to its fleet, starting next week.

Hertz has already signed deals with a variety of other battery car makers, ranging from the start-up Coda to more established manufacturers that include Nissan, General Motors and Toyota.

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Industry experts are divided over the potential market for battery-electric vehicles, especially in the U.S., where so-called “range anxiety” is a factor for buyers used to being able to drive long distances whenever they want.  So, placing products in a rental fleet, like Hertz, can provide a way for potential buyers to try before they buy.