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.
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.
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.
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.
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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