And the entry of electric cars into the U.S. market continues apace.

The first 2011 Nissan Leaf was delivered in San Francisco on December 12, and the first 2011 Chevy Volt came three days later in New Jersey. Now, Smart has delivered the first example of its own electric car, the 2011 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive.

Its new driver is Mindy Kimball, of Silver Spring, Maryland. She's an early adopter--and a major in the U.S. Army--who has been a presenter with the Climate Project for four years and participates actively in the Electric Vehicle Association of Washington, D.C.

Smart will deliver 250 Smart Electric Drives over the course of the year, available for a $599 monthly lease payment with $2,400 down. Kimball is one of a very exclusive group, though: Only about 50 electric Smarts will go to individuals, with the rest targeted for corporate and municipal fleets.

[UPDATE: Smart USA subsequently contacted GreenCarReports to note that while the compnay had initially planned to allocate just 50 Smart Electric Drives to private drivers, that number is now being reviewed. So, at the moment, it's unclear right now how the 250 will be divided among fleets and individuals.]

First Smart ForTwo Electric Drive with Roger Penske and Smart USA president Jill Lajdziak, Jan 2011

First Smart ForTwo Electric Drive with Roger Penske and Smart USA president Jill Lajdziak, Jan 2011

All 250 new electric-car lessees, however, will become members of what Smart calls "Team 250,"a club with a concierge service. It offers personal access to a drive advisor, full-time roadside assistance, updates, and participation in surveys and dialogues about the experience of driving electric.

The 250 lucky drivers will also have the first chance to move from their leased vehicles into the next generation of Smart Electric Drive models, which will begin production next year.

The 2011 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive has a 16.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, engineered by Tesla Motors, powered in 30-kilowatt electric motor that drives the rear wheels. Quoted range on a single charge is up to 98 miles.

The battery can be recharged from 20 to 80 percent in 3.5 hours using 240-Volt power, and roughly 8 hours for a full charge if it is entirely depleted.

In some ways, the driving experience in a 2011 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive may be more pleasant than that of its gasoline engined counterpart. The electric motor eliminates the ForTwo's automatic manual gearbox, which produces an unpleasantly jerky ride.

[smart USA]