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Smart Charging Up Plans for Electric Vehicle Test Fleet


The smart brand is still getting started in the United States but David Schembri, smart USA president, told TheCarConnection, during a New York Auto Show interview, that the company hopes to have a small fleet of electric-powered smart fortwo coupes in the U.S. for tests in about one year.

Parent Daimler AG began testing a plug-in-electric version of the smart around London last summer. An electric-powered smart is preferable to a hybrid, added Schembri said, insisting, "Lithium-ion is the way to go.” "An electric vehicle makes more sense than a hybrid," Schembri added, suggesting that electric vehicles are looking more and more like the wave of the future for carmakers.

Even though Daimler's first test of a plug-in smart used a different battery technology, Schembri indicated the U.S. test-fleet will be powered by the new lithium-ion batteries that Daimler plans to introduce in a hybrid version of the big Mercedes-Benz S-Class due out next year.

Meanwhile, Schembri said the launch of the conventional, gas-powered smart fortwo is well under way in the U.S., initial “hand-raisers” very willing to stand by their original deposits, which in most cases, were placed months ago.

Roger Penske, chairman of the Penske Automotive Group, said during a conference call with analysts last month that smart USA’s 68 dealerships should wholesale between 20,000 and 25,000 vehicles this year, provided it can get enough vehicles.

“We’re really excited about the smart business. We think it’s the right car at the right time,” said Penske, adding he was pressing Daimler AG for more vehicles. “This car has been a great success worldwide,” he said, adding that, “We are encouraged by the positive reaction of the U.S. consumer towards this unique and exciting product, and are confident that the smart fortwo will be a retail success,” Penske said.

Separately, Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche told TheCarConnection, last week, that he probably won’t make a decision on whether to increase production of the fortwo any earlier than the end of 2008. The question, Zetsche stressed, is whether early demand will be sustainable. –Joseph Szczesny, with TCC Team

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Comments (10)
  1. They Really need to bring in the USA the DIESEL SMART! With up to 70 alleged MPG, it is a REAL fuel efficient vehicle, while the gas version 36 MPG OVerall EPA rated Smart is NOT.

    The electric one will be good two, because it will be a considerable improvement over the regular smart in LOTS of different ways, including

    1. The extra battery weight will help the god-awful ride, and

    2. IF they can place the batteries REAL LOW, the car will have a lower overall center of gravity, which it desperately needs, and then you will be able to toss it in corners with far more confidence.
     
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  2. You know, I will agree with Thor on this one. I am actually kind of shocked that the fortwo doesn't get better economy for being such a small light car. Go figure. Bring on the diesel.

    The electric would be great for those who live in downtown areas of large cities, but for me, living 35 miles outside of a "big" city, neither smart works. God knows I don't want to be in a smart on the interstate system here in Florida...LOL.
     
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  3. Wayne: If you have to commute 70 miles a day (largely highway), and in a warm weather state, you can do very well with either a Diesel Golf-jetta-beetle of recent vintage (50-55 MPG actual highway Consumer Reports measured), or the excellent Mercedes 320CDI that can get 35-37 highway.

    A Prius in FL should also do well (about 50 MPG) because of the warmer weather, much better MPG than hybrids in the snowbelt.
     
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  4. I would propose that Smart should make all Smart cars electric because the only place you'd want to use them would be in a city or in town. Being a gasoline powered vehicle it can't compete with a used Honda civic.
     
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  5. Good point, Tom. I agree.
     
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  6. The EPA gas mileage for the fortwo is 41mpg not 36 as stated in a previous comment. That's what it says on my car's window sticker.
     
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  7. >I would propose that Smart should make all Smart cars electric because the only place you’d want to use them would be in a city or in town. Being a gasoline powered vehicle it can’t compete with a used Honda civic.

    I frequently drive my fortwo between Portland and Seattle. It's more comfortable on the highway than my Mazda Protege was. It's also more stable and nimble. And it has the added bonus that less people cut me off and more people let me into the next lane with a smile on their face.
     
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  8. Put me on the waiting list for the Elec Smart. Just don't make it a two year wait like the gas fortwo is now in the USA. It sure is hard to get excited about any product that takes a manufacturer that long to deliver to their customers.
     
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  9. Any one wanting to bounce around in one of these doesn't have to wait.. While in Sacramento the dealer had 8 of them just waiting for Little people.
     
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  10. Agreed with many of the above posts.
    The SMART is a STUPID car purchase. Why in the world would I want a 2 seater that makes 70hp and takes 12 seconds to hit 60 when for the same price I can get similar economy in a Toyota Yaris that can easily and comfortably haul 4 people, makes 106hp and get hit 60mph in less than 9?
    Moreover, why is it that the 1L engine in the SMART gets about 10mpg less than my 1998 Chevy Metro (also with a 1L, 3cyl engine) despite the fact the Metro is using 1-2 decade old technology...AND STILL CARRIES 4 PEOPLE!?!?!
     
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