Smart ED (electric drive) on the road in the U.K.Enlarge Photo
How well do drivers interact with electric vehicles, both driving and charging them? Smart has just launched a trial to answer that question, providing Smart Electric Drive vehicles to 100 Britons as part of a year-long research study.
It may seem like overkill in the details, but it will probably provide some very useful insights to Mercedes-Benz (Smart's owner), not only for the short-term trial duration, but for long-term relationship building for the future.
Top speed for the vehicle is electronically limited to 62 mph. No smirking here; for some commuters or shopers about town, a huge top speed is hardly necessary.
Given that the target customer is environmentally conscious and not your average speed freak, it makes sense both for safety and maximizing driving distance. What would be the point of having a tiny EV that can go 110 mph, but only with a range of 38 miles?
The 0-to-30-mph time is a respectable, and probably mildly entertaining, 5.8 seconds.
The small electric vehicles can be charged to 80 percent of their battery's capacity in about 3.5 hours using a 240-Volt U.K. domestic electrical outlet. The lithium-ion battery pack is made by electric-supercar startup Tesla Motors; a single charge yields about 84 miles.
Appealing features include satellite navigation, Bluetooth, ABS and air conditioning.
The cost is about £400 (about $600) per month, which could sound a little high, but considering the costs of maintaining and owning other new vehicles, it probably will appeal to the environmentally committed middle to upper middle class early adopter. The early adoption phase one reasonably would expect will have a higher price point, than subsequent versions.
I wish they had a similar program in my neighborhood. Being a research subject in service of cleaner transportation could even have a novel cachtet.
High Gear Media editor Bengt Halvorson got some time behind the wheel of the Smart Electric Drive last month; for more details, read his full drive report. He also reported that 250 electric Smarts will be offered to U.S. drivers, at a Mercedes-like price of $599/month.