2013 Smart Electric Drive To Offer Battery Leasing In U.S.

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It seems automakers in Europe have found the key to increasing electric car sales: battery leasing.

With 97 percent of European Smart Fortwo Electric Drive customers choosing to lease the battery, rather than buy it outright, Smart USA will now offer buyers the same option, when the car debuts this May.

The motivation is fairly straightforward. According to Automotive News, Smart wants to "minimize the anxiety" that the battery may die during an owner's tenure--a worry for many potential customers.

Smart hasn't yet set a monthly battery rental price for U.S. customers, nor a purchase price for vehicles bought without the battery.

In Europe, monthly rental starts at 65 Euros, or around $83. Various terms and mileage constraints apply, all of which have an effect on the monthly cost.

European pricing drops from over $30,000 battery-included to under $24,000 on the rental plan, making it a much more tempting prospect for buyers.

U.S. pricing is already fairly low, at $25,750 before the federal income tax credit or local incentives. On a battery rental scheme, that pre-incentive price could drop much lower and make Smart's electric car one of the cheapest vehicles on sale, post-incentives.

2013 Smart Electric Drive: Drive Video From NY Auto Show

Ordinarily, the Electric Drive's battery is covered by a four-year/50,000-mile warranty, but after that buyers are on their own. With the rental scheme in place, Smart will even replace the battery if it drops below 80 percent capacity.

Smart expects to sell or lease around 2,000 Electric Drives in the U.S. this year, a figure partly limited by European demand.

Global Electric Drive production will reach 6,000 units in 2013, and Smart sold 1,000 units in 2012 after production started in June. A spokesman said the company is hoping to expand global sales of the Fortwo Electric Drive to a five-digit figure by 2014.

Opinion varies on battery rental--it does add significant monthly running costs to electric vehicles, which puts off some customers.

Importantly though, the battery rental option will give customers a choice when the Electric Drive arrives in May--potentially opening the car's market to those who might not have considered an electric vehicle before.


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Comments (7)
  1. It's great that it is an optional program, and being optional you'd also have the choice to opt out and buy the battery. That's why I didn't like the idea, Renault's lease lasts forever now Smart and Nissan in the UK have battery leasing but buyers have the freedom to choose what's best for them. But I hope when batteries fall below a certain price that these lease programs are discontinued. Leasing the battery may not be necessary with newer generations so I wouldn't get to comfortable with it otherwise this may never stop and we'll keep paying even after battery leasing becomes obsolete. I still don't like the idea and I've seen repair bills on ICE cars that are a lot higher then the price of a battery.

  2. I thought this model was pioneered by Better Place of Israel. Unfortunately, that company seems to be going under having been too early on the "bleeding edge" of technology. The idea of battery leasing and battery swapping are innovations pioneered by the Better Place company and its original CEO Shai Agassi.

  3. Battery swapping was a BP invention, battery leasing was probably Renault's idea specifically, and is used on all the company's electric vehicles.

    The difference is that battery leasing seems to be selling EVs, battery swapping... hasn't.

  4. Well Better Place is still kicking, sales in Israel and Denmark have increased dramaticlly in Q1/2013 since Q4/2012. The lease plan is nice, but you still don't enjoy driving without range anxiety as I do with my switchable battery. In fact I'm not concerned at all about the battery, it's near emtpy and I'm not near a charge spot, switch it and keep driving. Since 4/2012 until today I've driven 42K throughout Israel, all under the concept of Drive, Switch and Go. And I will keep going as a satisfied Better Place customer!

  5. As I am understanding it right now from the dealer, in California, you cannot finance and lease at the same time. This means the battery lease might be more like a service contract in order to comply with the laws.

  6. Want to lease the Smart ED and the battery for 3 years - for free? A sweepstakes is giving away that prize plus a 1.5 kW home solar PV system to charge it: http://rgs.me/WUhdIU

  7. What about selling the smart car with a battery that has a range of 35 mile(1/3 of the regular battery)which will make a very cheap and light vehicle with a good pick up and speed,and: any way most people only drive to work and back less than 35 miles.
    if some one want to go in a long trip they could either rent a larger battery section or just rent a small car.
    The benefit of buying a very cheap car and not to have to put gas plus the environmental issues
    This way you could sell a lot of electric cars because ,in the end, the technology is been perfected only ,the battery still too s pensive.
    People will pay for the car just by not buying gas any more may be in a YEAR...don't be afraid smart car company,1/3 of the battery,very cheap car

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