Back in July 2014, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the next-generation Smart ForTwo microcar, the diminutive car’s third incarnation since its market debut in 1998 as a two-seat urban runabout for cramped, congested European cities like London, Paris and Milan.
Redesigned from the ground up, the new car was based on a brand-new platform jointly developed by Daimler and Renault and at launch, much was made about its all-new three-cylinder engines and choice of either automatic or manual transmission. At the time Daimler said an all-electric variant was coming to replace the outgoing Smart ForTwo Electric Drive but would lag the internal combustion engine model by several years. In the meantime, anyone wanting a Smart ForTwo with a plug was forced to opt for one based on the outgoing 2015 model-year car.
This morning, just ahead of its official 2016 Paris Motor Show debut, the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive was finally revealed in both coupe and cabriolet versions with a planned launch date of next summer. But while the new Smart ForTwo Electric Drive now gets the same body style as its internal combustion engined siblings, there’s not a huge difference between the outgoing model and the new model in terms of specification, at least on paper.
As in the previous generation Smart ForTwo Electric Drive, the new model features a 17.6 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack situated beneath the cabin in between the front and rear axles. While that’s an identical capacity to the 17.6 kilowatt-hours found in the previous-generation model, we believe the new battery pack is made not by Daimler’s previous battery partner (and subsidiary) ACCUmotive but instead is made by South Korean specialists LG Chem. Although we’ve not been able to confirm that information at the current time, use of a more energy-dense and therefore lighter-weight battery pack would explain the jump in range of the new 2017 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive Coupe from 84 miles to 99 miles on the NEDC test cycle, despite old and new models having an identical battery capacity.
As for U.S. range? The figures given so far have been for the overly optimistic NEDC test, which can be anything from 20 percent to 30 percent greater than official U.S. EPA ratings. Given that the outgoing model is rated at 68 miles of range on the EPA test cycle, we’re expecting an EPA rating for the new 2017 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive somewhere between 75 and 80 miles per charge.
Like previous Smart ForTwo Electric Drive, the new 2017 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive is powered by a rear-mounted electric motor driving the rear wheels through a single-speed reduction gearbox. Previously, that motor was rated at a peak power output of 55 kilowatts and 96 pound-feet of torque. The new model, with an improved, 3-phase electric motor, boasts 59 kW of power and 118 pound-feet of torque. This results in a 11.4-second 0-60 mph time (11.7 seconds for the cabriolet variant), a tenth of a second faster than the previous generation model. Top speed has also increased too from 76 mph to 81 mph.
But perhaps the most important change to the Smart ForTwo compared to its predecessor is the inclusion of an all-new, 7 kilowatt on-board charging system that can replenish the battery from 20 percent to 100 percent when paired with an appropriate charging station. This is a vast improvement from the outgoing model which, despite being offered in Europe with a three-phase on-board charger capable of recharging at 22 kW, was only available in the U.S. with a 3 kW on-board charger.
The one thing we can say for sure is that despite Mercedes-Benz listing the Fiat 500e, Nissan LEAF, Volkswagen e-Golf and Mitsubishi i-Miev as its main competitors, the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive will be in a market segment on its own. At least for now.
We’ll hear more in the coming weeks about the new Smart ForTwo, including an expected MSRP for launch. But with the new 2017 Smart ForTwo still under 100 miles in real-world range, we’re wondering just how popular it will be among buyers around the world, especially given the recent range-wars going on thanks to the impending launch of the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV and the dislike for two-seat microcars in key markets like North America.
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