Marking the 10th anniversary of adorable (if slow) little smart cars roaming the streets, Daimler AG has teamed with NASA and equipped the fortwo with solid rocket boosters enabling the vehicle to launch into space and orbit the earth. A moon landing is planned for 2011.
In another zinger, Dr. Dieter Zetsche, president and CEO of Daimler AG, proudly announced, "We invented the car--and we will do it again!"
But in all seriousness, smart is gearing up to produce an all-electric fortwo model, the fortwo ed, that will be beta-tested in Berlin as part of the program known as "e-mobility Berlin." While all-electric smart fortwos have been on the road since 2007, when the brand leased 100 of them to Londoners, the fortwo ed will make use of the ultra-efficient lithium-ion battery, and that is the big news here from smart at the Paris Auto Show.
Automakers are still perfecting the operating characteristics of the lithium-ion battery, so this smart stands as a concept for now. But the promise of a high-range, zero-emissions city runabout with a cult following like the smart has enjoyed since 1998 (more than 1 million on the road in a total of 37 countries) makes a lot of sense for European cities, where fuel costs are outrageous and congestion is a serious issue. Daimler AG promises test versions in Berlin at the end of 2009.
e-mobility Berlin is a consortium of the German government, the state of Berlin, and energy provider RWE. Daimler AG is stepping in to provide 100 smart ed vehicles, and RWE will be providing 500 charging stations. With all four entities working together, the group represents the largest electric vehicle program of its kind, and they all plan to work out the kinks of an electric-only infrastructure, the issues presented by charging, and the challenges of bringing reliable and safe lithium-ion technology to the mass market.