Smart Electric Drive has a little Renault-Nissan underneath

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2017 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive

2017 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive

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One of several new electric cars and concepts at last week's Paris Motor Show was the electric version of the second-generation Smart minicar.

As Smart pointed out, it's the only maker that offers the option of gasoline or electric powertrains in every model it makes.

Those are the ForTwo two-seat coupe, the ForTwo cabriolet with its roll-back cloth roof, and the Europe-only ForFour four-seat hatchback.

DON'T MISS: 2018 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive details released before Paris Motor Show

The new Smart was a joint development between Daimler, which owns Smart as well as its flagship Mercedes-Benz brand, and the Renault-Nissan alliance.

So the new Smarts share underpinnings with the latest generation of the Renault Twingo minicar sold in Europe.

That means the Twingo joins the Mitsubishi 'i' of 10 years ago and the Smart ForFour as one of the very few small five-door hatchbacks with rear-wheel drive.

Renault Twingo GT

Renault Twingo GT

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The two-seat Smarts are built in Hambach, France, while the ForFour and the Twingo are assembled at Renault’s plant in Novo Mesto, Slovenia.

Originally, it was expected that Daimler and Renault would develop the electric version of the Smart, given Renault's lead in European electric-car sales with its Zoe subcompact hatchback.

But then, a few years back, Renault said it wouldn't offer an electric version of the Twingo after all—leaving Smart on its own to develop the successor to several previous iterations of the Smart Electric Drive.

ALSO READ: 2017 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive prototype: first ride impressions

Renault's reason, as further explained by CEO Carlos Ghosn during a joint press session with Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche at the Paris Motor Show, was that volumes on the Zoe weren't high enough to justify a smaller vehicle that would essentially compete with it.

"We had already a number of electric cars on the Renault Nissan side," Ghosn said, "and the takeup was slow, so a further widening of the portfolio with the Twingo was not warranted."

And yet, as it turns out, there's a little bit of Renault in the Electric Drive versions of the various Smarts.

2017 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive

2017 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive

Enlarge Photo

The Renault Nissan Alliance announced last week that the electric motors for all Smart Electric Drive vehicles would be manufactured at the Renault plant in Cléon, France.

The batteries for the electric Smarts are produced by Daimler, using the same cells as it relies on for the expanding portfolio of plug-in hybrid Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

CHECK OUT: Daimler to launch at least six electric cars, perhaps even nine

For coverage of all the launches and news from last week's auto show, check our Paris Motor Show news page.

Nissan North America provided airfare, lodging, and meals to enable High Gear Media to bring you this first-person report.

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