New all-electric two-seater arrives with the potential to make urban driving fun
For those with a short commute and seeking to avoid the congestion charge or urban- based car buyers wanting to contribute to a cleaner planet, the new Fortwo Electric Drive could be an interesting alternative to the petrol-powered version.
Compared with its predecessor, the two-seat electric city car features a roomier cabin, a newly developed motor from Renault and a more efficient battery that brings both reduced charging times and a small increase in range.
Set to reach the UK by the middle of next year, the Fortwo ED comes in coupe and cabriolet bodystyles. A four-seat Forfour ED is also planned.
Power for the Fortwo ED is provided by a new rear-mounted electric motor. Producing 80bhp and 118lb ft, the three-phase synchronous unit delivers 5bhp and 22lb ft more than the previous Fortwo ED’s motor.
Energy is stored in a lithium ion battery pack under the seats. The 17.6kWh capacity is the same as before but the range is now put at 100 miles, 10 more than its predecessor.
The battery pack also recharges much more quickly than before. The 7.2kW charging system that will be standard in the UK is claimed to charge the battery to 80% in two and a half hours. Buyers can also specify a 22kW wallbox that reduces the charging time to just 45 minutes.
The Fortwo ED is conventional to drive so there’s no need to familiarise yourself with its operating procedure. You just jump in and go. And thanks to its tiny size and a superbly tight turning circle, it’s a good deal of fun in an urban environment.
Anew electronic management system provides finer throttle adjustment than with the old model, allowing you to meter out the power in more precise doses as you crawl along with the traffic. A good slug of torque is never far away, though.
The operation of the electric motor is pleasingly smooth and seamless. The inherent responsiveness, plus the braking effect as electric energy is regenerated on the overrun, makes the Fortwo highly convenient and quite entertaining in city traffic.
The energy recuperation system employs a radar-based sensor to continuously monitor the traffic conditions and sets an energy recuperation level to suit them. As a result, the off-throttle braking effect varies. There’s also an Eco mode that adjusts the throttle mapping and limits top speed to increase the range.
The motor, electronic management system and battery add 140kg to the Fortwo, increasing its kerb weight to 1010kg. Acceleration up to typical city speed limits is quite solid, as borne out by an official 0-31mph time of 4.9sec. Smart also claims a 0-62mph time of 11.5sec for the coupe.
By placing the battery low in the body structure, the Fortwo ED has a lower centre of gravity than its petrol-engined siblings. It also has firmer springs and dampers. As a result, its body movements are better controlled. The added weight also contributes to a more settled ride, although the steering is exceedingly light and numb. Overall, the car feels more mature and refined than its predecessor.
Being both fun to drive and convenient to park, the Fortwo ED is a city dweller’s delight – if you have easy access to an electricity supply for recharging. But the overall scope of the new Smart’s appeal is limited due to a distinct lack of progress with this new model’s overall range. Smart argues that the claimed 100- mile range is more than most buyers will require on a daily basis, but we struggled to coax more than 75 miles out of our test car. It’s relatively expensive, too. UK pricing is yet to be revealed, but don’t expect much change from £16,000 after the government’s £4500 subsidy.
Excels in urban use and more mature than its predecessor, but a 100-mile range (or less) is disappointingly
Smart Fortwo Electric Drive
Price: £16,000 (est, after gov’t grant)
Engine: Synchronous electric motor
Torque: 118lb ft
Kerb weight: 1010kg
Top speed: 80mph
Economy: 67.3mpg (combined)
CO2/tax band: 0g/km, 7%
Rivals: Mahindra e2o, VW e-Up