The production of the second generation of the Smart Electric Drive is hitting full swing in the French factory in Hambach. Smart now builds not less than 1500 of these cars for various markets, notably the US, Canada, Portugal, Denmark, the Czech republic, Austria and the Netherlands.
Belgium is also one of the selected countries, and will receive twenty-five Smarts beginning next year.
Last week, Mercedes Benz Belux had the pleasure to hand over the keys of the first five cars to five important Belgian companies, at the occasion of the “Smart Urban Stage” event, held in the Brussels Toison d’Or area. Of course, we rose to the occasion, and here follows our report… taking also the opportunity to drive this all-electric Smart in Brussels traffic!
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The Smart Electric Drive is proudly shown on the platform before the Smart Urban Stage event setup, which houses a convenient bar and exhibition on the city of the future and its (future) mobility solutions...
Five companies turning (to the) Smart…
Indeed, environment-conscious companies like Delhaize, Belgacom, Mobistar, Siemens and Ernst & Young have decided to take a latest generation Smart Electric Drive into their fleet. All companies want their car fleet to become “greener”, and also to let the staff become more familiar with the possibilities and driving characteristics of an electric car. Of course, the use of an electric vehicle fits also in their corporate environmental responsibility.
Mr. Etienne Verhelst, Business Services & Fleet Director at Belgacom (left) and Mr. Stéphane Jacobs, Managing Director from Mobile-for n.v. (right). Taking the electric Smart into their car fleet and working on the urban mobility solutions for the future...
Belgacom for instance wants to reduce its car fleet CO2 emissions between 2007 and 2020 by not less than 30 %. Siemens sees the electric car not only as a means of transport, but also as a decentralized energy storage tool. The integration of the electric vehicle into the intelligent electricity grid, fittingly called “smart grid”, is a priority for Siemens.
Siemens is very involved in designing environmentally conscious traffic and mobility infrastructure(s). In 2009, its technological solutions enabled its clients to reduce their CO2 emissions by not less than 210 million tonnes…
We had an interesting conversation with Katrien Valkiers, Internal Communication manger of the Department Corporate and Marketing Communications of Siemens NV, before she took the wheel of her electric Smart, (see the photo above) and we will report soon more about Siemens’ clever traffic management and infrastructure solutions… saving energy and the environment.
Another company who is gearing itself up for the electric age is Mobile-for. Mr Stéphane Jacobs, Managing Director of this company, showed me some parking/reload area solutions which are currently under development.
Mr. Stéphane Jacobs showed on his I-phone a video featuring the practical functioning of future recharging/parking stations... soon to be seen in your street?
The company pioneered in Belgium the parking zone payment solutions using your mobile phone, which is very practical and hassle-free indeed.
Their latest gimmick is the intelligent (re)charging card, (see photo below) which will be able to exchange business cards electronically, datafiles, information about areas, cities and places by touching an info sticker, and in combination with a coded card can give you access to reload parking areas and pay for them.
The intelligent recharging card lets you exchange business cards, datafiles and pay (smartly) for your recharging and parking space...
The second generation Smart Fortwo Electric Drive is very much in demand…
The introduction of the latest Smart ForTwo ED since November 2009 in the major European cities met with unexpected success. Production of the car has therefore been raised from 1000 to 1500 units. The car has an innovating and efficient lithium-ion battery, neatly tucked away between the axles. The 30 kW electric engine sits at the rear, and has a torque of 120 Nm. When fully charged, the battery enables the car to travel some 135 km.
… and we took it for a drive…
Of course, we could not resist the temptation to get behind the wheel of one of these electric Smarts. You servant took the Siemens Smart for a spin through busy Brussels (pre) Christmas traffic.
The electric Smart drives wonderfully silent and smooth, easy and quick...
As we expected, the experience was quite positive, and what’s more, the Smart gets really into its own with the electric engine, and is undoubtedly far better suited to dense city traffic than its “classic” counterpart. Gone is the nuisance of the jerky semi-automatic transmission which we never really liked, instead the powerful (as said, 120 Nm torque and 30 kW) engine moves the car briskly from 0 to 60 in 6,5 seconds. No gears necessary, the electric engine, which is very silent indeed, purrs from standstill to 100 kph in just one single ratio. No whining of gears to disturb the picture of smooth silence.
The two round dials tell it all: on the left dial you see that the battery is still fully charged (close to 100 %) and the right dial shows that by cruising uphill out of a Brussels tunnel you use some battery power... 14 kW of it.
The immediacy of the available power lets you move very confidently in dense traffic situations, with the effortlessness of a four-wheeled ballerina. After a few minutes one has learned to moderate and use only the acceleration power which is really needed, and this has a dramatic impact on the battery consumption. The car drives delightfully easy, and one now appreciates even more the steering agility and precision of the Smart, the ergonomy of its controls, the taut build quality and excellent finish. It was a good driving experience we would certainly like to repeat!
Lithium-ion battery power…
The second generation Smart Fortwo Electric Drive has a Lithium-Ion battery which was developed by Tesla Motors Inc, and has a capacity of 16,5 kWh. On a full charge, the Smart is good for 135 km, as we said, and tests have proven that at an average speed of 25-30 km/h, which is normal in our cities, the electric Smart can be driven for four to five hours before it needs recharging. The power management electronics of the Smart controls not only engine and battery, but also the heating and air conditioning. If you charge your Smart overnight at home, you can also bring the interior to the right temperature before you start off – who does not dream of this on winter mornings!
The equipment of the Fortwo Electric Drive is based on the ForTwo Coupé/Cabrio, so the car features electric power steering, electronic temperature control as mentioned earlier, electrically heated rear view mirrors, leather covered steering wheel and a leather covered selector handle. By the way, driving backwards is done by letting the electric engine rotate the other way round… it’s indeed that simple!
… and low running costs.
The Belgian government subsidises the purchase of electric vehicles with a bonus of 4540 Euros, but at present the electric Smarts are leased to the abovementioned companies for a period of four years and 60.000 km.
Running costs are very low as the battery, engine and other components of the drive train are maintenance-free.
Smart Urban Stage: the city of tomorrow in Brussels
The launch of the Smart in several large European cities spurs the debate around “the future of the city”. In the framework of the platform “Smart Urban Stage”, Smart organises temporary exhibitions around a number of futuristic projects. The exhibition is now held in Brussels on the Avenue Toison d’Or, at the site "Entre Deux Portes", from December 3 until January 9. The exhibition is open on weekdays from 12 to 19 h and on weekends from 10 to 19 h.
At the opening of the exhibition, a panel discussion was held, led by Helen Van Nuffelen, Corporate Communication Manager Mercedes-Benz Belgium Luxembourg, with to the left Marc De Haes, CEO Mercedes-Benz Belgium Luxembourg, and on the right Marc Langenbrinck, Managing Director Smart, and far right Alain Berteau, Curator of the "Smart future mind awards".
The project Smart Urban Stage started off in Berlin in June this year. The curator of the Brussels exhibition is famous Belgian architect Alain Berteau, In the exhibition hall one can admire twelve national projects ranging from culture, design, media, science, architecture and last but not least mobility.
Alain Barteau, curator of the "Smart Future Mind Awards", is also a celebrated architect...
The most innovating project of every “Smart Urban Stage” exhibition will be awarded with a prize of 10.000 Euro. In Brussels , the prize will be given on January 9, 2011 . The winner can then compete with the other laureates in the finale, which will be held in 2011.
The conference panel discussion was expertly led by Helen Van Nuffelen, Corporate Communication Manager at Mercedes-Benz Belgium Luxembourg
We would suggest that you make a Christmas walk to the Smart Urban Centre on the Brussels Avenue Toison d’Or, where you can also have an electrifying experience behind the wheel of the new ED Smart: it is indeed pure driving fun with a clear conscience…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
We put the electric Smart through its paces in the Brussels lanes, streets and tunnels...