Smart Electric Drive range - city cars go electric for 2017

Punchy torque figures and much faster charging should give Smart's latest electric range greater appeal

Smart has revealed three new additions to its range of rear-engined city cars for 2017, in the shape of the Fortwo, Fortwo Cabrio and Forfour Electric Drive models.

While Smart has offered electric versions of each previous generation of Fortwo - albeit not always for public consumption - this is the first time the Daimler-owned automaker has offered electric propulsion across its range.

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Each car uses a 60 kilowatt (80bhp) electric motor, sending its power to the rear wheels alone. While the horsepower figure doesn’t break any records it does - like all electric vehicles - provide a healthy torque output from rest, at 118lb ft.

That’s only 7lb ft shy of the Smart Brabus cars, whose turbocharged engines need to be spinning at 2500rpm before they develop their 125lb ft peak. And unlike the Brabus and other Smarts, the Electric Drive models use a single reduction gear transmission rather than a dual-clutch or manual, for seamless progress.

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The motor itself is produced by Renault, whose Twingo platform Smart shares with its own cars. Nostradamus need not apply for the job of guessing which Renault model is likely to gain electrification next…

The Fortwo is lightest of the trio and therefore quickest: 11.5sec to 62mph, against 11.8sec for the Cabrio and 12.7sec for the Forfour. These figures are shy of the 9.5-second Brabus Fortwo, but the chunky low-down torque (and the cars’ tiny dimensions) should give them good ducking and diving abilities in city driving. Top speed is limited in all three to 81mph, in order to preserve range.

To which end, the Fortwo also goes marginally the furthest, at 99 miles to the Cabrio and Forfour’s 96 miles. Neither figure sounds impressive in the context of BMW i3s and Tesla Model Ss, but with Smart’s cars billed very much as city-bound vehicles it’s unlikely to provide a major hurdle for the car’s buyers.

More pertinently, charging time has been slashed compared to the previous Electric Drive Smarts. A high-performance on-board charger allows all three to charge from empty in 2.5 hours, and when a 22kW fast charger arrives as an option next year, it should allow 45-minute charges from appropriate three-phase stations.

In reality, the old Smart Electric Drive’s powertrain wasn’t its biggest issue: that fell to the brittle ride quality at odds with the kind of roads it had to negotiate in town. Since the new model is already a big improvement in this area, the electric versions could be quite good fun in their chosen environment.

The other big issue is cost, and for the time being this may not change significantly. UK pricing is yet to be confirmed but in Germany, the Fortwo Electric Drive will begin at 21,940 Euros (around £18,800) before government incentives.

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A price around that mark would drop to £14,300 with the UK government’s plug-in car grant, but owners would have to be committed not just to electric vehicles (since standard Smarts are available from just over £11,000) but also to the Smart itself, with Renault’s four-seat Zoe selling at a similar price.

The Smart Fortwo, Cabrio and Forfour Electric Drive will go on sale in Europe in early 2017.

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