When the Paris auto show kicks off October 1, those in attendance will get their first look at the new 2017 lineup of Smart cars. The division of Mercedes will be the first car brand to offer an all electric version of every model — the Fortwo coupe and cabriolet and the Forfour sedan. The Smart has never really caught on in the US, where its diminutive size makes it look vulnerable to all the SUVs and pickup trucks on the road. But they are popular in Europe, where crowded cities and lack of available parking make them, well, a smart choice.
The electric cars will be outfitted with an all new Smart Electric Drive system, built by Mercedes-Benz in partnership with Renault-Nissan. Its specifications make it seem like an ideal choice for most urban commuters. It has a Euro-cycle range of 99 miles (more like 75 miles in EPA testing). It uses a 17.6 kWH battery that can be recharged in just 2.5 hours using standard household current. (Note: household current in Europe is 220 volts. Figure 5 hours for charging in the US on 110 volts.) Best of all, the battery is large enough to qualify for the full federal electric car tax credit of $7,500. A smartphone app allows owners to adjust charging and climate control settings remotely.
The updated Smart Fortwo is expected to go on sale next spring, although prices for the electric versions have not been announced at this time. The drop top version should be available by summer, though whether that little jewel will be available in the US remains to be seen. Smart boss Annette Winkler calls the upcoming car the ideal city car, adding that the electric drive makes it “a little bit more perfect.”
Smart says the driving characteristics are as “agile and lively as ever,” pointing out the 22.8-foot turning circle helps considerably. Besides the transmission’s basic mode, there is an eco mode, limiting the maximum speed and adjusting the electricity recuperation level under braking to maximum.
The Smart electric will meet the requirements of the majority of Americans for daily driving, but it still look minuscule next to full size cars in the parking lot at Home Depot. We will have to wait to see if the availability of a battery powered model can juice up sales in the US.