Smart to Test Electric Cars in US
By Chris Haak
Struggling minicar maker Smart has announced plans to launch a 250-car electric vehicle test fleet in select metro markets this October. Cities that will be included in the test fleet are Portland, Oregon; San Jose, California; Orlando, Florida; Indianapolis, Indiana; and along the Washington D.C. to Massachusetts of Interstate 95 corridor.
The cars will be 95 percent recyclable and will contain a Tesla Motors-sourced 16.5 kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery. Smart USA will lease 80 percent of the cars (200 units) to businesses and 20 percent (50 units) to individuals in the aforementioned markets. According to the company, the cars will have an 83 mile range, and will fully charge in less than 8 hours. In Germany, it costs about $2.40 to fully charge the car, which is significantly cheaper than the cost of operating a gasoline vehicle.
Smart USA will charge $599 per month with a $2,500 down payment for a four year lease of the electric ForTwo. This may sound like a lot of money for a Smart ForTwo, but Mini charges $850 per month for its Mini E leases. Even spreading the $2,500 down payment over the 48 month lease duration, the Smart ForTwo lease would only be $651 per month, but the Mini is a larger and more powerful car than the electric ForTwo.
Smart’s US sales have struggled since the brand’s peak at the height of $4-plus per gallon gasoline in the US in 2008. Sales of the one-model brand (ForTwo only at this point) are down 63 percent year to date in the US (through May 31) and down 15 percent globally during the same period. Daimler AG, Smart’s parent company, expects that global sales will pick up with the launch of the new third-generation ForTwo in the third quarter of 2010.