Report: Next-Generation Smart ForTwo Electric Drive Will Feature Renault-Made Motors

For the past eight years or so, German automaker Daimler has been building all-electric versions of its popular Smart ForTwo two-seat city car.

While the first 100 electric Smart ForTwo cars were constructed with help from Zytek electric vehicles as part of a limited-production test program, subsequent generations of the all-electric minicar used parts from other companies. The second-generation Smart ForTwo ED, for example, used a battery pack and powertrain developed by Tesla Motors for the German automaker, while the third-generation 2012-2016 Smart ForTwo ED, uses Bosch-derived powertrain components.

Smart ForTwo ED

The outgoing Smart ForTwo featured a motor made by German tier one supplier Bosch.

This morning, via a new joint announcement from Daimler and French Automaker Renault at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, we learned that when the next-generation 2017 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive debuts next year, it will come with the same R240 electric motor found inside the Renault ZOE electric hatchback.

Why another change of parts supplier for the two-seat all-electric urban runabout? It might seem like a strange switch, but there’s a perfectly logical explanation for the announcement — and it all revolves around the platform on which the all-new 2016 Smart ForTwo is built.

When the all-new, next-generation 2016 Smart ForTwo and brand-new 2016 Smart ForFour were announced last year, Daimler explained that Smart Car fans would have to wait an additional year for an all-electric version of the new cars to debut. In the interim, it committed to producing an all-electric version of the outgoing Smart ForTwo based on the old body style for an additional year. This is why there are actually two different body styles for 2016 model year Smart ForTwo cars: the outgoing body style for the electric drive variants, and the all-new style for gasoline and diesel-powered ones.

The Smart ForTwo won't arrive in electric form in the U.S. until 2017.

The Smart ForTwo won’t arrive in electric form in the U.S. until 2017.

Unlike previous incarnations of the Smart family, the recently-launched gasoline-powered 2016 Smart ForTwo and 2016 Smart ForFour are built on a brand-new small car platform developed jointly between Renault and Daimler. Part of a long-standing, ongoing cooperation agreement between the Renault-Nissan alliance and Daimler in which the alliance and Daimler hold a reciprocal 3.1 percent shareholding in each other, the all-new platform underpins both the European-market Renault Twingo and the new Smart ForTwo family.

Indeed, both the 2016 Smart ForTwo and the 2016 Smart ForFour are built collaboratively between the two firms: the Smart ForTwo is built at Daimler’s Smart production facility in Hambach, France, while the Smart ForFour is built at a Renault-Nissan facility in Novo Mesto, Slovenia.

Given this jointly-developed platform, jointly-manufactured lineup and Renault-Nissan’s existing experience in electric vehicle technology, it’s no surprise then that Renault-Nissan is providing its electric motors to Daimler for the Smart ForTwo.

Developed by Renault for the ZOE hatchback, the R240 motor was designed with smaller cars like the Smart ForTwo in mind.

Developed by Renault for the ZOE hatchback, the R240 motor was designed with smaller cars like the Smart ForTwo in mind.

Here at Transport Evolved, we’re pretty excited by the news too. That’s because the R240 electric motor in the Renault ZOE is far more powerful and capable than the 55 kilowatt motor found in the outgoing 2016 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive. Unveiled earlier this year by Renault as a new, second-generation drive unit for the Renault ZOE, the new R240 motor produces 65 kilowatts of power and 162 pound feet of torque.

Built using some of the technology Renault pioneered for the inaugural Formula E race series, It’s also far more efficient than the original drive unit used in the 2012-2015 Renault ZOE.

At the time it was announced, we did speculate that the new motor could find its way into the Renault Twingo (and by proxy, the new Smart ForTwo), so we’re glad to see our prediction has come true.

In addition to the extra power however, there’s also something else which we think European customers may find interesting: the prospect that Renault’s three-phase AC quick charging system could make it over to the new Smart family.

Thanks to Renaults ties with Formula E, theres some race-car DNA in the new motor.

Thanks to Renault’s ties with Formula E, theres some race-car DNA in the new Smart ForTwo motor.

Called the Chameleon Charger by Renault, the on-board charging system of the Renault ZOE uses the car’s three-phase motor inverter circuits to charge the battery pack. In its current iteration, this means the Renault ZOE can charge from any single or three-phase Type 2 charging station at speeds from 3 kilowatts all the way up to 22 kilowatts. (Previous versions of the ZOE could use dedicated 43-kW three-phase systems, but this was removed with the inclusion of the new motor.)

While the existing Smart ForTwo ED is available in Europe with a 22 kW Brusa on-board three-phase charger as an optional extra, we’re guessing the new motor will make three-phase 22 kW charging standard — although it’s not clear what the plans for the U.S. will be, since three-phase AC charging isn’t currently available there.

Are you a Smart ForTwo fan? Do you think the extra wait has been worth it — or do you think the all-electric Smart ForTwo and Smart ForFour variants need extra tweaks to make them more appealing to buyers?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • More power!!! This would make me upgrade from my 2014 Smart ED. Loving the idea. Thanks for this very informative article, cudos!

    • Michael Thwaite

      Count me in too. The Smart Electric Drive has become our go-to car and more power means even more fun.

      I wonder if the increased efficiency will extend range much? We get about 110 when driven extra-urban.

  • L. Tessar

    Yes, this fun to drive car that can amuse other drives at stop sign with its acceleration, deserves an good upgrade in the motor power and battery pack – at least 80 miles in cold weather.My dream 0-60 5 sec!! Smart PLEASE don’t forget to add heated steering wheel and pedals .. unique and smart(!! yes, indeed. Because vehicle’s heater consumes lots of battery energy to heat the car’s interior) as an option!

  • Peter Bursztyn

    I am just completing (one week to go) 2 years with my electric-drive smart.
    It has done 12,350km, using 2138kWh of electricity.
    At the (ever increasing) cost of electricity in Ontario (Canada), this has cost $251 (Canadian),
    This represents very cheap driving – until you add in the cost of insurance: $1847 (Canadian) for the 2 years!
    In summer the car does 130km on a charge; in winter this drops to just 60km – and we use the heater very sparingly!
    The acceleration is “electric” – it has blown away every car I have encountered at the “stop light Grand Prix” in total silence. Very satisfying for a 74 year-old alongside pimply-faced lads driving hopped-up Honda Civics!
    Nothing has fallen off or broken.
    In summary, my wife and I love it.
    Our “other” car is a VW Golf TDI (yes the condemned diesel) with manual tranny. We LOVE it too; absolutely nothing beats if for fuel economy!