The electric car is coming of age. One outstanding case in point is the Electric Drive Smart, which has proven its worth in many big world cities, and which we have now taken trough its paces in everyday (inter)city use. Is this type of car in our country, where one often commutes between the larger cities, when driving from home to work, an attractive and practical proposition?
Just read on...
Hans Knol ten Bensel
As Smart as a Smart should always have been...
Driving this electric Smart convinced us that this is the Smart as it should have been from the start: smooth, with no jerky gear changes, powerful, vibrationless and silent.
Indeed, the electric motor develops 55 kWh or 74 healthy horsepowers which get you very briskly of the mark as the electric motor develops its maximum torque from its very first rotations.
Smooth and with no gear changes, as the motor does not need a gearbox at all. It certainly is a "zen" experience to drive away in this Electric Smart. And, as said, it is quite lively too: 0 to 100 is absolved in merely 11,5 seconds, and thanks to the 130 Nm of torque which is immediately available, 0-60 km/h takes only 4,8 seconds.
When you enthusiastically floor the accelerator during two minutes at a stretch, the permanent-magnet motor will however automatically reduce its power to 47 horsepower.
We have to admit that we drove the Smart much more quietly, as indeed our major concern driving this Smart was the range of the car. So we did not witness any drop in available power...
In motorway or intercity driving, the practical range is merely 105 km or a good 65 miles at best, with the city range being slightly more. The manufacturer quotes a rather optimistic 145 km, but then who wants to drive the last 30 kilometres or so on only 30 pct of its charge?
We therefore drove the Smart decidedly slowly in our commute between Antwerp and Brussels and back.
By the way, the E-Smart is powered by a new 17,6 kWh lithium-ion battery pack which is mounted between the two layers of the sandwich floor. The car feels much stable, quieter and less jittery than the petrol version with this added weight, an does not jump or shake on uneven tarmac at speed.
When accelerating or driving at constant speeds, we hardly used more than 40 % of available power, and this resulted in a cruising speed of 90-95 km/h and quite good accelerations. But on the motorway, the trucks are then your companions on the right lane, and this might be a bit daunting for the driver of a 975 kg Smart.
It is indeed in city driving conditions that the Electric Smart really comes into its own, and there we could not wish for anything else. We also liked the regenerative braking, were the engine is used as a generator, and even merely lifting off the foot will get you very decent deceleration, and when you drive with reasonable anticipation, you don't need to use the brakes at all. Of course the Smart brakes quite briskly when called to the task.
On our commuting trips, we had to recharge the Smart, and that's were the problems really begin. Infrastructure with sufficient charging points is lacking at the moment in our country, and therefore we had to rely on the goodwill of the institutions which we visited to provide us with charging facilities, like Audi Brussels for instance.
Recharging the Smart fully with the 3,3Kw 230 Volts in board charging plug costs some 7 hours, with a wall box it will cost 6 hour, in both cases when the battery is completely flat. With a wall box, you can also have a quick charge for 1 hour, and reach thus up to 80 % of charge.
Is the Smart therefore a suitable commuter on larger distances? Yes, but only when recharging facilities are available during your trip, and you have sufficient time at your disposal for recharging. Then it can be also a quite pleasant performer, and even provide you with bags of fun driving it. With a good intermediate charge, you can also cruise happily with the Smart at legal maximum speeds, and keep very well pace with the traffic, also on the open road and motorway.
Our test car came equipped with a Smart bike, mounted at the rear, and it is one of the very nicest electrical sport bikes we know... Faithful readers remember our driving impressions of the Smart bike some time ago in Antwerp, and it certainly was a very enjoyable experience once again.
The Smart turns out to be an excellent electrical vehicle, with lots of charm and practical qualities. As an urban cruiser, one could not wish for anything better, when of course your needs are met with a compact car. It makes very much sense, and we are very curious to see the new Smart, both in its petrol engined and electrical version. We are therefore looking forward to the end of this year for further Smart ingenuity and fascination...