Smart Electric Gets More Power, More RangeBy John O'Dell August 16, 2011
The Smart ED, Mercedes-Benz' first effort at an electric-drive car, will get more horsepower and range from a new electric drive system when the third generation of the two-seat car is introduced next year. The "new" electric Smart, using a house-developed motor and battery instead of the battery system sourced from Tesla Motors for the second-generation test cars, will be unveiled during the Frankfurt auto show that begins Sept. 13. Mercedes said Monday that the Gen 3 Smart Fortwo electric drive, set to go on sale in 30 markets including the U.S. in the second quarter next year, will deliver 73 brake-horsepower, up almost 83 percent from 40 bhp in the present version of the car, and 96 lb-ft of torque, an 8 percent hike from 88 lb-ft.
The second-generation Smart EDs use battery packs, supplied by Northern California-based EV maker Tesla. And motors made by UK-based Zytek. Mercedes announced earlier this year that it wanted to bring its electric-drive program in-house and had set up joint ventures with two German companies: Bosch, to build electric motors, and Evonik Industries to develop and manufacture lithium-ion battery packs. The company said the new battery packs from the joint venture, called Deutsche Accumotive, would increase the Smart ED's optimum per-charge range to 87 miles from the 82 miles claimed for the Tesla-powered Smart ED. The initial Smart electric test cars could travel only about 71 miles on a single charge. The new battery reportedly boasts a 17.7- kiloWatt-hour useable capacity, up from about 16.5 kWh in the Tesla packs. The 2012 Smart ED would charge in 8 hours on the standard European 220-volt household current (corresponds to 240 volts in the U.S.) and in just under 60 minutes on a high-voltage DC quick charging system.
The company said that its Smart Division intends to build 10,000 of the new electric Fortwo models. Pricing and a breakdown of distribution allowances or the various countries in which it will be marketed were not disclosed. But hewing the auto industry's longstanding credo that performance sells, Mercedes did publish acceleration and top speed data for the new Smart ED: 0-60 kilometers per hour (37 mph) in 5.0 seconds, a 23 percent improvement from 6.5 seconds in the generation-two model, topping out at 75 mph (120 kph), a 21 percent bump up from the previous model's 62 mph (100 kph).
Daimler, parent of both Mercedes-Benz and Smart, hopes to use electric-drive powertrains as a way to help resuscitate the ailing Smart brand, whose global sales last year fell 17 percent to 97,500 vehicles almost all of them diesel and gasoline models. As part of that plan, Smart has said it will move beyond cars into a so-called personal mobility program that will include an electric bicycle that will share the podium with the new Smart ED at the Frankfurt show. The e-bike (below), initially shown at the 2010 Paris auto show, uses a hub-mounted electric motor powered from a small, frame-mounted lithium battery.