For its annual gathering of Smart enthusiasts, the organizers chose this year a very interesting place: the historic port of Antwerp, and indeed it was a magnificent, if somewhat wet venue, on the weekend of August 25-26 . Your servant attended the press conference on Friday, and the weather gods were thankfully very benign, as we also had a very interesting first drive on the Smart ebike…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
A flashing event at a trendy spot
Indeed, the setting for the “Smart Time” gathering of all Smart enthusiasts worldwide was cool and trendy: city and “Smart” enthusiasts had a good taste of the flavor of the old port city of Antwerp with the beautifully designed museum at a stone’s throw, and nature lovers could go for a superb breezy ride on the quays along the Schelde. The choice of the “Hangar 29 Waagnatie” at the Antwerp Rijnkaai was indeed superb, as the accompanying photos show.
We were first treated to a very inspiring presentation by CEO Dr. Annette Winkler, who masterfully explained the “raison d’être” of the event, and last but not least focused on the present initiatives of Smart to enhance urban mobility. She also presented the latest addition to the Smart range, the ebike.
An inspiring advocate for (urban) mobility today and in the future: CEO Dr. Annette Winkler...
Creating ever more urban mobility with the Car2go concept.
The concept is quite simple: the customer who wants to have a car at his disposal for immediate mobility, can simply take the nearest “Car2Go” Smart car, which he can locate via his smartphone and which he can then also reserve via his smartphone or internet.
To participate in this Car2go concept as a customer, he simply has to register. On his valid driving license a chip will be activated which he can use as an entry and ignition key for his Car2go Smart car.
That is actually all there is to it… The cars are always meticulously maintained and cleaned, so undisturbed driving pleasure is warranted! The client is charged for every minute he uses the car, and this covers all the costs for insurance, maintenance, fuel, etc.
The project started in Ulm, and after an initial successful trial period it is conquering all the cities worldwide: at the moment of writing, Car2Go has ot less than 100.000 registered clients over the globe, who have rented the car already more than 2 million times.
As a registered user, just enter your pin code and you can drive away with your Car2Go...
The global fleet comprises at the moment of writing not less than 4000 Car2go’s, of which 625 electric ones.Amsterdam is here successful: not less than 300 electrical Smarts are presently running in the Dutch capital. Quite a few American and German cities are already well covered, with for instanceSan Diego having the first fully electrical Car2Go fleet inAmerica, but alsoWashington is on the map with a fleet of 200 cars. The biggest Car2Go fleet is presently to be found in Berlin, with not less than 1000 cars (!).
We had an interesting conversation with car2go GmbH Corporate Communications Manager Andreas Leo. He commented on the success of the formula, and pointed out that Lyon is now the first French city to adopt the Car2Go concept, with 200 cars. Other French cities will follow soon.
Having a splendid drive with the ebike.
The Smart ebike is now entering series production, and of course this was an excellent opportunity to get acquainted with the “two wheeled Smart”. The Smart ebike was developed and is now built in cooperation with the well-known Berlin based e-bike manufacturer GRACE.
The bike really looks very good, if not to say “smart”, and needless to say we took the occasion to have a short “test” drive on this bike.
Using this bike is delightfully simple. On the electronic display in front of you can choose between four levels of electrical “assistance”, bearing in mind that the electric motor has a power of 250 Watt.
Choosing between four levels of electronic assistance is easy, just push "+" on the right side, and if you choose "-", then the motor acts as a generator. So you can use muscle power to charge your bike!
Depending on the chosen level, the powerful 400Wh lithium-ion battery will last for 100 kilometres. It can of course be charged on an ordinary plug, and a full charge will last about 5 to 6 hours. But if you feel sporty, you can charge the bike while riding, as a simple press on the button lest you choose between four levels of charging, inverting the polarity of the motor, which than acts as a generator. Riding the bike will then require some extra effort of course. The motor also automatically acts as a generator while braking, and being equipped with two very powerful MT4 Magura disks, the bike really has ample stopping power!
With the right side hand grip you can flick between 3 gears, and to get better acquainted with the “e-power”, we chose the highest gear with “level 2” assistance. It took us hardly more than 100 metres to get completely used to the assistance effect, and we must admit that the ebike has a truly normal “bike” feeling about it, being very stable, well balanced, swift and sure footed. Of course the bike is equipped with an USB slot, and a special I Phone app has been developed to let you monitor the battery status…
Last but not least, a city crawl in the Smart fortwo electric drive
Faithful readers remember how enthusiastic we were driving the electric Smart over the Brussels boulevards and streets. This time we took the electric smart for a crawl through theAntwerp narrow historic streets, and indeed these are driving conditions where an electric-powered car really comes into its own. We drove, as the accompanying photo shows, some 99 % of the trip distance really “eco”.
Despite its excellent slow driving properties, the electric Smart is no sluggard however. Its 55 kW engine is now powered for the first time by the energy coming from a battery developed by ACCUmotive (battery producer and developer within the Daimler group since 2009) and speeds the car from 0 to 100 km in merely 13 seconds. We still believe that the Smart is truly at its best in the electric version, its smoothness contributing very much to the “Zen” feeling one gets in the nimble car while driving in our crowded cities. Oh yes, the available range is now a good 140 kilometres, more than sufficient for city drives…
To sum it all up, we really enjoyed our “Smart” weekend!
Hans Knol ten Bensel