2013 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive: Yes, Better Without Gasoline

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If you’re still smitten with the design and styling of the Smart Fortwo, you’re probably going to be happier with the version that never needs a gas station.

That’s the conclusion we emerged even more confident about, after the hour earlier this month we spent with the Smart Electric Drive—also known as the ED3.

It builds on a verdict we reached three years ago, and then cemented over several more drives and iterations. From the moment we first drove the original Electric Drive—a fleet-proving prototype—we celebrated the absence of the Fortwo’s raspy gasoline engine, and most of all the absence of its crude, unpredictable semi-automatic gearbox.

After being proven in special fleets, and then by car-sharing and other means, the Electric Drive is now back, and on sale to the public. And quite simply, it returns all the park-on-a-dime minicar packaging goodness of the Fortwo, but with a powertrain that’s strong, refined, quiet, and predictable. It’s a better fit for the personality of the car, and it feels smart.

And in place of the 16.5-kWh Tesla battery pack is a new 17.6-kWh one designed and produced by parent company Daimler. Electric-motor output is now up to a peak 55 kW (74 hp), with 89 lb-ft of torque.

How’s it drive? Easily, responsively

Smart has dialed in the electric powertrain so that it feels like a conventional automatic-transmission vehicle, creeping forward gently when you lift your foot off the brake, just like a gasoline car, and decelerating with a light level of regenerative braking. With optional steering-wheel paddle-shifters (the car we drove wasn’t so equipped), you can increase or decrease the level of regenerative braking. Again, in any case, it’s smoother and more predictable than the standard Fortwo. Acceleration feels brisk for the first 20 or 25 mph, then still quite quick up to about 40 mph.

The EPA has given the ED3 an official range of 68 miles; and it’s rated for efficiency at 107 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe), or 122 MPGe City, 93 MPGe Highway. That figures to an annual fuel cost of just $600—a fraction of that of any gasoline car.

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