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Next electric smart car may be cheapest EV in US

The first sub-$30,000 electric car from a mainstream automaker looks possible, but there's a small catch.

By Clifford Atiyeh Sep 20, 2012 4:39AM
Smart fortwo electric drive (c) DaimlerWhen the electric 2014 smart fortwo makes its U.S. debut this spring, it may become the country's most affordable electric car on sale.

In Europe, the smart fortwo electric drive (ED, for short) costs €18,910, or just under $25,000 at current exchange rates. That puts it a good $5,000 lower than the least-expensive EV, the Mitsubishi I-MiEV. The catch: Smart drivers must lease the battery from Daimler for $85 per month.

Smart isn't the only automaker trying to soften EV sticker shock. Renault offers a battery lease on its low-speed, two-passenger Twizy for $59 per month, and also plans to offer the incentive on its larger electric car, the Zoe, due this fall. But while battery leasing may lower short-term ownership costs, it's a drain for buyers wishing to keep an EV for more than five years. After that time, the smart's price advantage over the Mitsubishi crumbles (total price, including the battery, is just under $31,000).

In July 2010, smart began leasing 250 ED models in the U.S., out of about 1,500 worldwide, for $599 per month. In November 2011, Daimler's car2go service brought 300 smart ED models into San Diego for hourly rentals. The next-generation car, on sale in Europe since June, will bring sorely needed performance upgrades when it arrives in 2013, including a larger 55-kilowatt motor and 17.6-kilowatt-hour battery. The current smart ED is barely highway worthy, as it requires 23 seconds to reach the maximum 60-mph speed (the 2014 model will reach 78 mph, Daimler said). A spokesman for Smart USA declined to comment on U.S. pricing or whether the company would offer a similar battery lease program.

With no back seat and cramped cargo space, the smart ED needs aggressive pricing to justify its existence against larger EVs with similar range and more driver comforts. Last year, smart sold fewer than 7,000 gasoline-powered cars, less than either the all-electric Nissan Leaf or plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt. According to Bloomberg, Daimler says it plans to sell at least 10,000 electric fortwo models per year worldwide.

[Source: Daimler, Bloomberg]
Sep 30, 2012 6:57AM
What they need is battery swap stations. They could set them up like gas stations. Even use solar to help recharge the batteries too. Oil companies have been buying up all the technology to prevent this.  Gotta love big oil and the Republican base that is bribed by them.
Sep 30, 2012 6:56AM

Somehow those advocating so vehemently that we use electric cars are NOT providing the information related to the impact on environment that these cars truly have.  The impact has been suggested to be as bad or worse than standard combustion engines of today. 

To produce BETTER cars...

A:  Invest in oil in America today...But..

B:  Provide incentives to companies that invest in exploration of alternatives such as Natural gas (done better), and other sources.  THIS might include Electric cars, but NOT those that exist today, as they do not create enough energy to allow longer or emergency travel and replacing parts is expensive and IF you happen to be in an accident, survive to pay the high costs of repairing these boxes.

Sep 30, 2012 6:54AM

I got a smart four-two when they first came out. I loved it as it is so economical. It cost a little over $13,000 and I had to fill up every two weeks with premium gas. I doubt an electric smart would be cheaper in the long run. I used it primarily for in-town driving. The only reason I got rid of it was that I had too many cars and felt that was the one that needed to go out of the 3. The only down-side was that the air conditioner didn't really cool well enough in the summer months. Other than that, I think it is a great little car for in-town driving.


Sep 30, 2012 6:54AM
Bottom line on EV's, not worth it.  Factor overall cost, compare to a 4 cylinder Ford, Chevy and others you can never make it   Affordable.  They can spin it anyway they want it just doesn't add up.
Sep 30, 2012 6:52AM
Sep 30, 2012 6:50AM
its hard to go green in this economy when they make it more expensive than the conventional option !!!  You have to make the alternative more attractive and better price in order to get people to switch.
Sep 30, 2012 6:49AM

Fuel economy can be achieved without creating such a significant safety risk.


Electric cars don't have to be "death" traps.

Sep 30, 2012 6:47AM
How good will they do in 12 inches of snow and 40mph wind ?
Sep 30, 2012 6:45AM

Ygm where's the "safety" data.  The car gets a 3 of 5 rating,

Car is so smal airbag works like a parachute.

You have 360 degree view, just so you'll see your death coming from all directions.

Word is, Ringling Brothers has reached out to Smart, and hopes to settle the copyright infringement suits w/o going to court.  Bozo and other clowns are extremely upset about the design imposing on their creative rights, and feel that Smart should look at other designs, other than their Clown Car.

Sep 30, 2012 6:44AM
This technology was worked to death back in the 1950s to 1980s. I designed a solar furnace as a thesis in 1957-8 during the alternative energy craze. We still need to have fossil fuel to generate electricity for these cars. We still need batteries, and more importantly distribution systems for solar, wind, tide, wave, etc. to be useful. The cost of these systems will drive electricity up to record highs. The effect on the environment will be very much the same as using fossil fuel. Special conditions where only the alternative energy systems will be practical continue to drive technology. e.g. Remote areas, ocean bouys, space devices, jungles, etc. We do not yet have recycle systems for the large battery arrays to minimize carbon deposits. We still kill birds with wind systems. We still have cleaning problems with solar systems,;we still have off time cycles with all but fossil fuel and nuclear systems. The electric car is a "feel good" placebo in the 'ecologist' unread mind.
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