August 6, 2007: Source – Product-Reviews

smart car

40-plus mpg isn’t enough for the makers of smart. In addition to gasoline and diesel powertrains now available, Mercedes will soon introduce electric and micro-hybrid (belt-alternator-starter) versions of the diminutive auto. But if you live in the US, don’t hold your breath.

Mercedes doesn’t plan to start selling smart in the states until 2008, although California company ZAP has been importing and modifying the cars so that they adhere to US emissions standards. The ZAP process adds $10K or so to smart’s $12–17K price tag. ZAP, an unauthorized distributor whose primary business is electric vehicle development, is also suing Mercedes over US distribution rights.

The micro-hybrid version of Smart ForTwo employs a belt-driven starter/generator, which turns the engine off when idling to conserve fuel and reduce emissions. The Fortwo MHD returns fuel economy of 66 mpg, strives from zero to 60 mph in 13.3 seconds, and has a top speed of 90 mph.

Specs of the electric Fortwo, from Product-Reviews:

The electric version will have a 41hp electric motor, which will be able to reach speeds up to 69mph and will have a range of 70 miles.

Charging time for the electric smart car is about 8 hours, and that will cost you about $3 in electric. Do not expect it to break any land speed records, as the electric Smart will only get from 0-60 in about 19.8 seconds.

Although Mercedes says it will begin production of these models by the end of the year, it remains to be seen when they will make it to the US market. Typically, automakers wait and see whether consumers express enthusiasm before selling the most fuel-efficient vehicles here. But it’s worthwhile noting that over 20,000 people have put $99 down to reserve their own smart with Mercedes. How many of those would upgrade to hybrid or electric, given the chance?

Maybe Mercedes should stand back and let ZAP test the market for them.


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