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Development of the smart fortwo electric drive

smartUSA press release, Nov. 16, 2010

Electric drive has been part of the smart concept right from the start. When conceiving the smart design more than 20 years ago, Daimler developers anticipated the need for an alternative powertrain and factored the integration of electric drive components into the first smart design.

By integrating the components and battery for an electric drivetrain, designers did not need to make sacrifices to the smart fortwo’s safety, agility, comfort and space. The battery fits in the underfloor between the axles where the gas tank is located in the gasoline smart model, while the electric drive module replaces the gasoline engine between the rear wheels. The result is a smart fortwo electric drive that looks just like its combustion engine counterpart except for the lack of an exhaust pipe. It has the same exterior footprint, luggage compartment space and large amount of interior head and legroom that have come to define the smart fortwo. We call it “no compromise conservation.”

Three-phase program
The development of the smart fortwo electric drive is a three-phase program. The first phase started in 2007 when smart launched a pilot project in London, England to test the first generation technology. smart leased 100 electric smarts of the former series model to gain real world experience. London is an ideal test city due to its high population and infrastructure density, which results in traffic congestion, parking shortages, severe noise and pollution. Participation in the project was first offered to companies that operate their own vehicle fleets and those who drive in inner city areas. The majority of the customers approached smart to participate in the London project. The initial project proved to be very successful with customers, who provided very helpful and encouraging feedback.

One key finding of phase one was the change in driver impressions about battery range after real world driving. At the beginning of the test program, the 100 vehicle lessees were asked about their level of anxiety with the battery range offered by an electric car. Eighty-seven percent expressed some level of anxiety. In the second survey 24 months later, only 17 percent of the group had the same anxiety. The takeaway was that drivers of electric vehicles felt much more comfortable with range after learning they had ample battery capacity between charges to accommodate their daily driving patterns.

Phase two, which launched in late 2009, produces 1,500 second generation smart fortwo electric drives for everyday use in cities in 18 countries around the world. The first phase two vehicles were handed over to customers in Berlin, Germany in December 2009 as part of the "e-mobility Berlin" project. In early 2010, the “e-mobility Italy” initiative started placing 100 electric cars onto the streets of Rome, Milan and Pisa. The United States will receive 250 of these phase-two vehicles for smart USA’s test fleet to the “Team 250.”

The U.S. pilot program will provide third generation technology developers with performance experience in the breadth of different geographies and climates that make up the continental United States. The information gathered in the phase-two vehicle research will contribute to the development of the third generation technology for series production vehicles.

Phase three is series production which begins in 2012 with third generation models to be sold to consumers through smart USA’s dealer network and at dealers in nearly 40 markets around the world.

Last edited by JPaul; 11-17-2010 at 11:16 AM. Reason: Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Nov 16, 2010
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