Smart ED Becomes First Nationwide Electric Car

By · February 14, 2011

Smart ED

In January, Smart started delivering the electric versions of its two-seater microcar, and its management predicts that the Smart ED will be the first factory electric seen in many communities. Rather than the regional rollouts being underway by Nissan with the Nissan LEAF and by Chevrolet with the Chevy Volt, Smart offered the Smart ForTwo ED to all 77 of its dealers.

"The majority (of dealers) have taken at least one," Smart Director of Communications Rick Bourgoise told Smart will build 250 of what it terms the second generation electric Smart. They will be available on a four-year lease for $599/month with $2,500 down. That model will be followed by the third generation model in 2012.

Smart ED cutaway

The current model uses lithium ion batteries developed by Tesla, but Daimler plans to use its own battery in the new version—which will be produced in higher volumes and available for sale or lease. In addition, anyone leasing the current Smart ED will be able to upgrade to the new version in 2012 with no change in lease terms.

Bourgoise explained that because all Smart dealers can opt to lease the current Smart ED, it may be the first factory electric vehicle see in some markets, such as Milwaukee, Wisc.; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Jacksonville, Fla. Smart provides a map (see "Dealer Map") on its website showing which dealers currently have or will have the electric Smart.

The Smart ED is also the only available electric car, besides the Tesla Roadster, that is offered as a coupe or a cabriolet— a convertible power soft top with a heated glass rear window.

The gas-powered 2011 Smart ForTwo models are also getting some attention this year. For the first time this year, models will have the option of cruise control and navigation, and will now feature eight airbags (six on the cabriolet model). For the near future, the company is also working jointly with Nissan on a four-seat, five-door hatchback Smart model that will land in the U.S. before the end of this year. That car will feature a manual as well as Smart's current automatic transmission. A second line of products is also being developed jointly between Daimler and Nissan-Renault and could arrive mid-decade.


· · 7 years ago

funny, when they first announced this program, Indy was to be one of the initial markets. They even had a Smart ED here for some time for people to test drive (I drove it.) But when you look at their dealer map, Indy isn't even scheduled yet to receive one.

· · 7 years ago

Not sure what's going on with that, but if I were you I'd march down to the dealer and talk with the principle (not just a sales guy) and see what happened. It also may be that the map is not current.

· Stephen Taylor (not verified) · 7 years ago

The Wheego is about the same kind of vehicle and it too will be available nationwide. I think they are even planning on building more vehicles than Smart.

· · 7 years ago

@Stephen Taylor,
I'd be careful about putting the Wheego in the smne category as the Smart until they start building some and then pass US crashtests. Have they delivered any? They keep pushing back the delivery date and have gone quiet lately.

· · 7 years ago

Almost as soon as we posted this story, Smart's parent company, Daimler AG, announced that some changes were coming. Here's a summary:
*Smart was moving from being distributed by Penske back under the Mercedes-Benz USA group.
*Smart would be offered at more of the Mercedes-Benz dealers and some non-MB affiliated dealers might lose their franchise.
*All warranty and other details would remain the same.
*The four-door Nissan-based model for the US was cancelled, but a joint Nissan-Daimler four-door that is under development will continue and should be in the showrooms in a couple years.
Daimler characterized the move as primarily about CAFE number. While Smart fuel economy numbers are factored into Mercedes overall, the company thinks it will be able to sell more Smart cars with them integrated more tightly into the business.

· · 7 years ago

Oh great. So the first introduction of the US Heartland to EVs will be to a sawed off thing that won't go more than 63 mph, has terrible acceleration performance, and is named after an embarrassing disease :-(
It guess our EVangelical work won't end any time soon.

· · 7 years ago

Don't worry ex, I have a feeling there won't be too many people that actually ever see one, much less know someone that has one.

· Priusmaniac (not verified) · 7 years ago

They should stop using that smart base, since it is connected to the sad Swatch mobile story. Swatch wanted to make it an electric in the first place but Mercedes didn't want so they turned it into a gas car for more than a decade. It is like if GM turned the EV1 into a gas car for a decade and proposed it again as an electric in 2011. Really a sad story that has shown the dark side of Mercedes, one of the oilies sponsored car manufacturer. In the mean time Mercedes is now changing tactics. They present themselves as green by putting their smart reborn electric on the market, but in the same time, they are waging a price war by lowering all their first entrance conventional gasoline cars. They are now trying to prevent people to choose alternatives by dumping the price of the gas-guzzlers even lower then production price. This is a standard mafia technique to remove would be competitors from a market.

· · 7 years ago

Rear wheel drive in an EV is a big disadvantage. Front wheel drive allows much more effective regenerative braking. The Th!nk City, Toyota/Scion iQ, Fiat 500 all have front wheel drive, and they seat more people than the Smart.


· · 7 years ago

The Smart from the beginning was designed to accept a variety of different propulsion systems (as are the A-Class and B-Class Mercedes (which is why the electric and fuel cell versions of those models are relatively transparent compared to some other companies' conversions). It was never EV-only and probably never will be given its limited volume. On the other hand, the Smart is perfectly suited to EV use since by design it's an urban, short-distance vehicle, a good match for current battery technology. Not sure where you're getting your pricing information, but given their current profit level, I would pretty well guarantee Mercedes is not selling cars for less than they cost to make them. That's why the Smart ED's price is so high.
Good point about rear drive, but I don't think you're going to see that much difference in range. Driver behavior is more likely to affect it. And, by the way, the Th!nk City is a two-seater as well in its base form and the back seats on the other two (not to mention the performance degradation from the added weight, may call into question their functionality as four-seaters. Bottom, more is better and smaller is smarter (pun intended) for EVs.

· · 7 years ago

@Michael Coates,
. . . an urban, short-distance vehicle, a good match for current battery technology. . .
You really don't get it do you. EVs are not suited for urban folks who don't go anywhere. The best market for today's short-range EVs (Leaf/Volt) is for power drivers who drive between 30 and 60 miles per day, every day, and as such are heavy consumers of cars and gasoline so they have to go to the gas station a lot and replace cars often. They own or at least control, their own homes and make good incomes. Urbanites who pay a fortune for their housing and don't go anywhere can't afford the premium that batteries cost today. Why pay a premium for a vehicle that mainly gets driven just to search for parking spaces when a bus or subway takes you wherever you really have to go? Batteries offer very little advantage to urbanites.
Apparently, you have drunk the koolaid that EVs have to be small and nearly useless.
You may think that dumbing down one's life but keeping driving the same old gas guzzlers is a real solution to energy problems. Unfortunatly, the only problem this solves is that our oil will last long enough for you and I to be dead naturally before mankind runs out of oil so we won't have to suffer the affects. Our children and future generations need a real solution to our energy needs so that they can share the same cozy lifestyle that you and I have enjoyed for our whole lives.
Let's support smart cars, not just name something Smart.

· · 7 years ago

@ex-EV1 driver,
I think we're violently agreeing. A 30-60 mile commute is a modern urban area, and it's about as far as you would want to drive a Smart (trust me, I own one). Otherwise, it's a Zipcar EV for around town. There's plenty of room for a variety of EVs and I think the Smart ED will be one of them. I also don't believe we'll be running out of oil anytime soon, but that's another discussion.

· · 7 years ago

@Michael Coates,
If you consider 30 - 60 miles to be urban then we definitely do agree. I classify that as Suburban Sprawl which is unsustainable with ICE as far as I can see.
I don't really care about running out of oil in the next 10 years either so I guess we both agree there. I do worry about it getting to be completely unaffordable over the next 20 - 30 years though.
I don't promote EVs because I have any need for them today - although they are pretty cool. For the price of our Tesla, I could buy and fuel nearly any ICE vehicle pretty much for the rest of my life.
I'm thinking of the big future that our children and their children will have to live in.
Note that I'm also not opposed to the ICE Smart. I just don't see it as being very ecological and I don't believe it is any more of a viable car for most people, than my Tesla Roadster is.

· Mark C (not verified) · 7 years ago

I think there's room on the market for the Smart ED, but at $599 for a lease it's mostly for the upper middle income class or better. I personally don't plan to lease a car. Maybe it's a personality quirk, but if I get one, I'll buy it so nobody will be able to take it back.

As for the Wheego, I haven't seen one up close but I doubt the dealer backing would be as strong as Daimler. The lease price for the Smart is quite a bit higher than the Nissan Leaf......but it isn't as widely available as this story says the new Smart ED will be. As far as ED in the name, I'll not worry about how many laughs the junior high school crowd gets over the name.

· · 7 years ago

@Mark C
"I doubt the dealer backing would be as strong as Daimler"
On the other hand, Wheego dealers may be more interested in keeping their small-car customers happy while Mercedes may treat them as 2nd class citizens. It's hard to tell which will be better.
I have test driven the Wheego and was pleasantly surprised. Its a lot more car than the Smart ED as it will actually go freeway speeds. The company behind it is small, yet devoted to making it a success.

· Peter (not verified) · 7 years ago

I like the look of it.
Here are 8 things you don't know about the Nissan Leaf:

· Redmond Chad (not verified) · 7 years ago

The Tesla Roadster was the first nationwide electric car. It's been available since 2008.

The Smart is cute, but man it's slow (I test-drove one). My RAV4-EV isn't very fast but I'm quite happy driving it. I don't think I could put up with the Smart ED.

No real big deal, as Smart is only building 250 of them. Phase 2 of their testing. The price is ridiculous compared to the Leaf, but they are assuming they can lease that many to businesses in non-Leaf areas that will write them off as a marketing expense (they sure do draw a lot of attention!). It could well work for that.

Wheego (which I have also driven) has passed crash tests, and gotten approval from EPA and DOT. Their car is a little larger and faster than the Smart, and available for sale rather than just lease. It has the problem that it is also more expensive than the Leaf despite being smaller, but it too will be available nationwide in March. Wheego service is more of an open question than Smart's.

I'm not pushing one or another; I'm just glad we finally have choices in electric cars!

· Anonymous (not verified) · 7 years ago


Yet another uneconomic electric car available only for lease, to be snatched back and crushed at the whim of the greedy, manipulative owners of everything transportation (oil is the cash cow - controlling the car and battery companies is merely the means to keep big oil in business), and using pricey lithium batteries instead of more economical (1/2 the price of lithiums and potentially considerably less by some figures), better performing, green (and longer lasting according to reports I've heard) nickel-metal hydrides.

Still, it's a step, the future isn't written. Egyptians are demanding better, and we in the west must also work towards overcoming adverse vested interests and creating a better world.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 7 years ago

With the research going on in batteries now, it is not a given that the versions available now will be state-of-the-art in a few years. People who buy those cars now could be stuck when trying to resell them where those who lease will not. I'm not arguing for either path; just pointing out things aren't anywhere near being settled yet.
Consider this: when we want to move, we rent a moving van. We don't drive a moving van around all the time because they're too expensive to fuel and hard to park. I'd be happy to drive something tiny & electric most of the time & rent something for the long-distance trips a couple of times a year and the logic of this approach may become more compelling with the rise in gas prices.
My utopia; close one lane of a road every 10 blocks or so to anything bigger than a bike. One of the reasons people don't want to bike is the safety issue. Another: rain. I have a recumbent trike & I'm considering something that would provide shelter from sprinkles and excess sunshine. A very small electric motor assist could sustain it at commuting speed once obtained by a combo of muscles and motor. A fairly small battery pack might suffice and a solar collector on the doohickey overhead could extend range because of the small size of the batteries.

· · 7 years ago

@Redmond Chad,
Tesla has two dealers, so I wouldn't consider that a nationwide availability that includes sales and service. But give them credit for getting out front. Other than that, your analysis is pretty good and skepticism about the Wheego is justified based on my experience in the auto industry.

· · 7 years ago

@Michael Coates,
Actually, Tesla has 17 showrooms (check their website for the complete list) around the world, many in the USA and most of which offer both sales and service. They also have their Tesla Rangers with mobile service that drive around the US servicing vehicles that they will sell to anyone who will fork up the money.
I'd say that pretty much counts as nationwide availability considering you only need to get service every 12,000 miles or once per year, whichever comes first. You can get tires anywhere.
Why are you so negative against Tesla that you keep making up bad things? Don't you like the idea of soaking rich people to help pay for cars that don't require oil?

· · 7 years ago

I dont know why ex-ev1-drive has such anger and hostility towards the Smart car. After all, it is an EV, so why all the negative comments? If you lived on Long Island, you would notice that there are a lot of Smart drivers. They mainly use the Smart car to commute from home to the Long Island railroad station every day. Smart has been leasing these vehicles for at least 10 years, and every LIRR train station has a whole row of charging stations for all the Smart commuters. So, whats the problem? Some people like these cars, use them every day, and the car fits a perfect niche for these commuters.

· · 7 years ago

My apologies for the previous comment. They were THINK electric stations cars, not SMART cars used in the LIRR energy saving program. Because the cars look so similar, I get them confused. Sorry!

· · 7 years ago

I can answer your question about my hostility toward the Smart Car very easily.
- I have very little against or for the gas guzzler type. I'm not impressed by it's pathetically poor gas mileage. I figure if one only gets half a car, you should get twice the gas mileage yet most hybrid and diesel cars get better gas mileage than the gasoline Smart.
- I definitely do hate the Smart ED because it appears so clearly to be Daimler's rebuff of the concept of an EV. Besides the name they chose (I don't believe it was accidental), it is a dumbed down version of the gas one -- exactly the attitude that the ICE companies have traditionally tried to link with electric transportation. It tops out at 62 mph -- great visual to be sure it is only seen crawling over in the right lane of the freeway or blocking traffic in the other lanes. For every SmartED that gets on the road, there will be thousands of more people whose fearful-of-EV attitudes must be changed.
- The SmartED is also way overpriced, thus it will be a marketing failure which can be used as an excuse for Daimler NOT to make any more EVs. This is likely to be used in a similar manner to where GM executives told the State of California that they could only sell about 1500 EV1s when every one they built had a waiting list on it and they tore apart the factory at around the 1500th one.
- For a suburbanite who needs a small, easy-to-park car to run short distances from home to the LIRR station, a Smart is fine. It is irrelevant ecologically though since that car doesn't consume much gas generally anyway. The ICE Smart does just fine at 65 - 75 mph on the freeway and definitely does that job just fine.
I want to see EVs made for mass market, not consigned to only being designed to fill insignificant niche markets.

· · 7 years ago

@ex-EV1 driver,
You're right about Tesla dealers--they have all of 14 in the US, including 5 in CA. Nationwide by the generous reading of the definition. But back to the Smart. your point on wanting to see mass-market EVs is well-taken, but that is the point! Right now, EVs are not ready for the mass market. The Leaf at $32K is not a viable (ie, money-making) car for Nissan by their admission. Neither is the Volt at $41 for Chevy. They need much higher volumes, which will take time and money to reach. The Smart is a toe in the water for Daimler, which has several other models in the works (as do most automakers). Small is the easiest way to start with an EV. You have lighter weight meaning you need fewer batteries (the biggest cost still) and can probably offer the most reasonable retail price. As you noted, smaller cars work great for EV-ready commutes like the first/last-mile ones noted by @Rahbaba. The mass market may come, but I don't see it around the corner. In the meantime, as you note, there are plenty of choices out there that lighten the environmental impact of driving.

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