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2013 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive First Drive

Lyndon Bell
by Lyndon Bell
August 1, 2013
5 min. Reading Time

Spend even the shortest amount of time driving in San Francisco and you’ll very quickly come to realize driving in San Francisco is all about going around stuff. In most places, the signal changes and you set off on your way to the next traffic signal. In San Francisco, the signal changes and you’ll immediately be impeded by the (choose one or more of the items from the list below:

•             Double parked car(s)

•              Stopped taxi(s)

•             UPS truck

•             FedEx truck

•             Moving truck

•             MUNI bus (or trolley)

•             Cable car

•             Construction crew

•             Random inebriated individual

•             Hordes of traffic oblivious pedestrians (AKA tourists)

•             Or typically—particularly in Union Square—most or all of the above

In other words, the streets comprising San Francisco are more like a living, ever changing obstacle course—than they are a network of thoroughfares. That said; if you’re in a really big car (or God help you—a Limo), forget about it. For San Francisco, you need something small and agile, and ideally hosting a powerplant with a great deal of low-end torque.

You’ll need to scoot away from the line ahead of the cars next to you and change lanes quickly to get into the temporarily open one. You’ll also need to squeeze through very tight spaces when all the lanes are seemingly blocked. And, if you can do it very quietly so nobody gets a clue about what you’re up to—that’s even better.

Yes, a motorcycle or a scooter works—but remember, it also gets very cold in San Francisco.


Maybe that’s why the Smart PR team chose San Francisco for a demonstration drive of the 2013 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive. Over an afternoon of driving the ion-powered car there, it proved itself to be the absolutely perfect device for this application.

2013 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive First Drive: Models And Prices

For the 2013 model year, Smart offers one model (the ForTwo) in four trim levels.

•             Pure Coupe — $12,490 MSRP

•              Passion Coupe — $14,890 MSRP

•             Passion Cabriolet — $17,890 MSRP

•             Electric Drive — Well, uh, it’s kind of complicated…

List price for the 2013 smart fortwo electric drive is $25,000 for the Coupe and $28,000 for the Cabriolet.


Smart USA is offering a plan called Battery Assurance Plus (BAP). Opt for it and you’ll get a guarantee the battery in your Electric Drive ForTwo will hold at least an 80 percent charge for 10 years. If it fails to do so, the battery will be replaced free of charge. The plan costs $80 per month, but choosing it reduces the MSRP of your Smart electric car by $5000.

Thus, the Electric Drive Coupe with BAP retails for $20,000 and the Cabriolet goes for $23,000. But wait, there’s more. There’s a federal tax credit of $7,500 for alternatively fueled vehicles like the ForTwo Electric Drive. This reduces the price even more, to  $12,500 for the coupe and $15,500 for the cabriolet.

But we’re not done yet. State and local subsidies can reduce the price even more—you’ll have to consult your state government and your local municipality to see exactly how much savings you’ll get there.

Hold on though—they’re still not done.

Starting August 1, Smart is offering a rebate on the ForTwo Electric Drive model of $2000 on each model, so the ultimate price of the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive could be $10,500 for the Coupe and $13,500 for the Cabriolet—or even less if your state and or local government also offers tax incentives on the purchase of an electric car.

Smart also offers a lease for the ForTwo Electric Drive. With BAP and the rebate, the monthly lease payment is $139 (plus taxes and etc…).


2013 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive First Drive: Powertrain/Fuel Economy

As its nomenclature suggests, the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive is powered by a 55-kilowatt water-cooled three-phase AC electric motor capable of producing 35 watts of continuous power. If you hit the go-pedal hard, 55 kilowatts will be generated for about two minutes. For those of you better acquainted with horsepower and torque than volts and kilowatts, this means the Smart’s electric motor is capable of producing 74 peak horsepower and 47 steady-state horsepower.

Further, it generates 96 ft-lbs of torque the moment you press the go pedal.

The original Smart ForTwo was designed with alternative powertrains in mind, so all of the electric hardware fits exactly where the gasoline gear does in the conventionally motivated Smart ForTwo models. In other words, the electric motor lives between the rear wheels, and the battery pack is situated beneath the floor of the diminutive automobile.

Like most electric cars, a single-speed transmission is all the Electric Drive Smart requires. When you place the shift lever in reverse, the motor simply runs backwards. According to figures provided by Smart representatives, the ForTwo Electric Drive is capable of accelerating from zero to 60 in just under 12 seconds. As you can imagine, this sounded pretty unimpressive in a press conference—so they led by telling us the Electric ForTwo accelerates to 37 miles per hour in 4.8 seconds.


Actually though, when you consider the Smart’s natural habitat is urban traffic, this is the more significant statistic.

A lithium-ion battery pack stores the charge for the Electric Drive For Two. A full charge consists of 17.6 kilowatts. According to the EPA, the 2013 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive is capable of traveling 76 miles on a full charge. Through a rather complex algorithm— one all but indecipherable by the average human being—this translates to 122 miles per gallon on gasoline.

From a 240v outlet (like the one powering an electric clothes dryer) the battery can be fully recharged from depletion in six hours. It takes about 3.25 hours to charge the battery from a remaining charge of 20 percent to 80 percent of capacity.

As for a recharge from a conventional 110v outlet, it’s way too long to consider. However, as you’re driving the ForTwo Electric Drive, braking and coasting will also generate a charge, which is stored in the battery for subsequent availability.


2013 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive First Drive: Features and Controls

Having driven several iterations of the gasoline powered Smart ForTwo; the interior of the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive was immediately familiar. The major differences were found in the two gauge pods placed atop the dash. Rather than housing a tachometer and a clock as they do in the conventional models, they contain a power meter gauge and a state of charge gauge.

The charge gauge offers an indication of how much of the battery’s charge remains (calculated as a percentage of full charge). The power meter gives you an indication of how much power you’re consuming in real time—so you can alter your behavior accordingly if you need to maximize your range.

One nice feature of the model is its “preconditioning” capability. On very hot days, or really cold days for that matter, you can program the car’s climate control system to function while the car is still on the charger. This reduces the drain on the battery as you won’t need to try to get the interior temperature of the car comfortable as you begin your drive.

Oh, BTW, you’ll find the ignition switch on the center console near the transmission shift lever. Other than that, it’s a pretty conventional situation. Everything else is about where you expect it to be in terms of equipment and secondary functions. Overall, it’s pretty intuitive.

To keep track of your Electric Drive Smart ForTwo’s state of charge and other aspects of its power draw and battery performance, a telematics system has been set up to allow the owner to monitor the car on a online home page. Communicating over the power lines, the car doesn’t need to be in a WiFi environment for this to function, as long as it is on the charger. Further, you won’t incur data charges on your smartphone to monitor it.


2013 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive First Drive: Driving Impressions

Other than the near-silent operation, piloting the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive is largely the same as operating the conventional car. The spaciousness of the interior is a very pleasant surprise. Two six-foot tall occupants will find considerable comfort inside the Smart ForTwo. Around town, there are few cars capable of rivaling the comfort, convenience and agility of the Smart Electric Drive.

Having maximum torque available right off the line makes zipping away from traffic signals a breeze. As we mentioned at the beginning of this report, in a crowded urban environment this is a significant advantage. Another plus of the Smart car’s size is the complete lack of blind spots. A quick glance over your shoulder is all you need when a lane change becomes necessary.

Yes, there are some concerns about that 11-second zero to 60, but this really only becomes an issue on the highway. Having driven smart cars on California freeways, we can report the gasoline-fired models are more than capable of holding their own. The electric model’s capability should be commensurate, although you can definitely expect energy consumption to increase. Unfortunately, our test route didn’t permit a full exploration of this, though we did hustle along at freeway speeds in places and found the little Smart car more than capable of hustling along with the majority of traffic.

We also found the Electric Drive Smart ForTwo’s steering to be quick and its brakes to be more than adequate—although the regeneration function does alter the feel of the brakes. Yes, the short wheelbase has a tendency to amplify road irregularities, but the agility it affords the car is a more than fair tradeoff. And, don’t even get us started on how much fun it is to zip around town. Behind the wheel of a Smart ForTwo Electric Drive, it’s like you’re wearing the car more so than driving it.

You really feel that connected.



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