What is it? The electric is the best-driving version of the Smart ForTwo yet, with its quiet, smooth acceleration. Parent Daimler has updated the previous A123-sourced battery with a larger, 17.6-kWh lithium-ion unit from a German automotive supplier, which sits under the floor of the car.
Daimler claims a range of 90 miles, but readily admits its EPA rating will be less. Expect about 68 miles, or about 10 percent longer than the Mitsubishi iMiev. The 3.3-kW onboard charger can provide a full recharge in about six hours. The car also gets almost double the power from a new 47 hp motor. Mash the pedal to the floor, past a second detent, and you can get a brief 74-hp boost. Daimler, says top speed is limited to 78 mph. The company is offering all manner of custom trim, paint, upholstery, signage, and more, which can drive the price up quickly.
What is new or notable? The most notable thing about the Smart Electric Drive is the fact that this version will be available for sale or lease to any consumer in any state. Prices start at $21,750, and the car is eligible for the full $7,500 federal tax credit, making it the cheapest electric car on the market.
CR's take: When we tested a gas version of the Smart ForTwo, we found it compromised utility as a tiny car, yet it didn't provide any of the expected benefits of fuel efficiency, fun handling, or a cheap price. The electric version makes no breakthroughs in handling, but at least it's relatively efficient and cheap in its class. As a city car, its modest range may be less of an issue—as long as urbanites can find a place to charge it.
When will it be available? Mid 2013.