According to the Wall Street Journal, Daimler will launch a pilot program of the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive in China beginning next year. 

The report indicates that Daimler is considering several cities for testing of the Smart ED.  As Ulrich Walker, chairman of Daimler Northeast Asia said, "We have to see the acceptance of this car."  The recent announcement from Daimler comes just after China's government announced that it will subsidize private purchases of alt-energy vehicles in select cities throughout the country.

Now before interested individuals in the U.S. get upset about Daimler selecting China and not the U.S. as a testing site for the Smart ED, consider that the Smart ED is a city vehicle not capable of reaching highway speeds and is more suitable as an urban runabout rather than an everyday car here in the States.  Refer to the recap of Automobile Magazines review of the 2ndgeneration Smart ForTwo ED below to see just what we are missing.

The Smart ForTwo appears at first glance to be a prime candidate for electrification.  The vehicle's small size and light weight would make an ideal urban runabout.  In EV form, this vehicle could provide effective urban transportation for two and do away with some of the quirks that plague the gasoline version.  Eliminating the jerky transmission would be a great step towards perfection.

The Smart For Two ED is undergoing real world testing in Europe with a China test program in the works.  Over at Automobile magazine, journalists had their go at this second generation model and came away less than impressed.

The 2ndgen Smart ForTwo sports an updated lithium-ion battery pack supplied by Tesla.  Peak power for the 2nd gen prototype has increase from a paltry 27 hp to a breathtaking 40 hp.  Certainly the power upgrade is modest, but how does the additional power translate in terms of real-world performance?  The additional power goes virtually unnoticed.  The prototype can only utilize the additional power for short bursts of time, limiting the vehicle to the original 27 hp for the majority of the time.

Automobile magazine speculates that thermal issues with the motor or electronics have not yet been overcome.  The result, power is limited to avoid overheating any components.  Power concerns aside, Automobile notes that the regenerative braking is poorly blended resulting in jerky stops and an annoyed driver.

The specs for the 2nd gen don't stand out either.  The vehicle has a top speed of only 62 mph and a range of only 84 miles, less than competitor's such as the Leaf and below the 100 mile threshold.

The vehicle is still a prototype and additional work will be done before the vehicle is ready to hit the market.  But the two attempts so far show little progress and Daimler has a lot more work ahead of them.  The expected release of the Smart ForTwo Ed is 2012.

Source:  Automobile Magazine, Wall Street Journal