News from July 2006

The smart fortwo, globally recognized for its compact size, has been gradually reshaping the automotive landscape. Available with two engine options, an inline three-cylinder gasoline turbo, and a turbodiesel, the 799 cubic-centimeter turbodiesel particularly stands out for its efficiency. In North America, where Smart caters exclusively to the Canadian market, this diesel engine has made the fortwo one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the streets. However, Smart is not resting on its laurels and is pushing for an even more efficient power source for the crucial fortwo model.

In December of the previous year, DaimlerChrysler, Smart’s parent company, unveiled five alternative fuel smart models. These included the Crosstown and Micro-Hybrid, both gasoline-electric hybrids, a cdi hybrid integrating the existing diesel engine with a mild hybrid system, a CNG-powered model accommodating natural gas or conventional pump gasoline, and the smart ev (ev denoting electric vehicle). At the time of their introduction, DaimlerChrysler provided minimal information about these environmentally conscious compact cars — until now.

Smart recently announced plans to conduct a trial run of 200 units of the pure-electric smart ev later this year. It can be likened to Europe’s equivalent of the GM EV1 — a genuine, mass-market production electric automobile. The fortwo, by international standards, is a tiny vehicle, rivaling or even surpassing the size of some current electric vehicles on European roads.

The development of the smart ev was a collaborative effort with Zytek, a well-known British company specializing in hybrid and electric drivetrains, as well as racing engines. Assembly of the ev will take place at Zytek’s factory in Fradley, England.

Visually, the ev resembles any other fortwo model, sharing the same wheels, Tridion safety structure with interchangeable panels, and the standard car’s aerodynamic efficiency. The ev cleverly transforms its fuel filler into a charging input.

As for its drivetrain, the ev’s electric motor boasts 30 kW (41 hp) of output, equivalent to the diesel engine. The significant difference lies in torque; the electric motor delivers 100 percent of its power from zero rpm, making it more responsive and quicker than its diesel counterpart. The smart ev reportedly accelerates from 0 to 30 mph in 6.5 seconds, achieves a top speed of 70 mph, and boasts a range of up to 72 miles. A full battery recharge takes approximately eight hours, with a quick boost from 20 to 80 percent achievable in just four hours.

Whether Smart decides to scale up production of the ev remains to be seen. However, one thing is clear: contrary to popular belief, the electric car is far from dead.