electric drive 2009-2014

electric drive 2009-2014

It comes with everything that makes a smart a smart, but it doesn’t have a combustion engine. Instead, the smart ed (electric drive) features a 41bhp/30kW electric motor powered by a high performance, high temperature sodium-nickel chloride battery to offer cheaper running costs and reduced environmental impact thanks to zero tailpipe emissions.

Its combination of agility, economy and environmental compatibility means the smart ed sets a new benchmark in the electric vehicle sector. Importantly it enjoys the same levels of equipment and the same extensive safety features as other smart fortwos, making it ideal for urban journeys and providing customers of this popular two seater range with yet another environmentally-friendly alternative.

Although it isn’t currently available to buy, a fleet of 100 smart eds are being trialed by a number of blue chip companies and local authorities around the UK. This will be continued on a global level in 2009 as similar trials start in other European cities.

In-town performance is even better than its petrol-powered stablemate, with 0 to 30 mph covered in 6.5 seconds, while top speed is electronically limited to 60 mph. Depending on conditions and driving style, smart ed is capable of covering over 70 miles, making it a highly practical proposition for daily commuting and urban driving requirements.

Significant savings

In a like for like comparison of fuel costs, the possible savings when driving the smart ed will clearly depend on the relative price of electricity and petrol at any given time. However, taking the new 61 bhp micro hybrid drive fortwo coupe as a comparison, which is capable of 65.7 mpg on the combined cycle, the cost of the electricity required to power the smart ed over a similar distance (it consumes 12 kWh every 62 miles (NEDC)) works out to about one sixth the price of a gallon of petrol.

On a cost comparison, that means the smart ed is capable of approximately 300 mpg, amounting to a saving of up to 80 per cent in fuel costs over its already highly economical smart fortwo siblings. And compared to the industry average emission level, each smart ed would reduce carbon dioxide tailpipe emissions by 2.6 tonnes per year if driven over 10,000 miles.

No road tax

As the smart ed produces no tailpipe emissions, it is exempt from vehicle excise duty. Furthermore, once you’ve registered the smart ed as exempt (an annual £10 fee) you need never worry about London congestion charge.

Similarly, as a company car, the smart ed brings significant benefits. Electric vehicles currently get a preferential tax rate of 9 per cent and, in the case of the ed, fuel scale charges are dramatically reduced as no petrol is provided and the provision of free electricity by the employer to the employee is not treated as benefit in kind. Furthermore, employees choosing the smart ed as a company car can enjoy a notional taxable value of just £13,750.

Easy to live with

The smart ed is very practical and has its own charger unit on board, which means it can be plugged directly into any UK mains three-pin plug 230 V socket to recharge. The electric socket is concealed behind the conventional fuel cap.

A charge level indicator replaces the conventional rev counter in a central position on the dash and conveniently swivels through 90 degrees to enable it to be read from outside the car. A charge to 80 per cent capacity takes about 4 hours while a full charge takes 8 hours – ideal for charging at work between morning and evening commutes or overnight. It is possible to charge the battery during its primary life at least 1000 times and will last up to 10 years.

Maintenance requirements are considerably reduced since there is no engine oil, oil filter, spark plugs or exhaust, while the battery and motor themselves are maintenance free. In fact there are only a handful of moving parts in the driveline, resulting in significantly lower servicing and maintenance costs compared to a petrol or diesel smart.

With only a very faint hum from the electric motor the smart ed cabin proves to be a very tranquil environment and the feeling of well being is a very noticeable part of the smart ed driving experience.

With its pint-sized dimensions – it is only 2.5m in length – ease of parking has long been a benefit of the smart fortwo and an increasing number of local authorities are offering either free or discounted parking for zero emission vehicles. Added convenience will come from on-street electric charging points being progressively introduced by boroughs across the country.

UK-developed and assembled

The drive train for the smart ed is produced in the UK by technology partner Zytek Automotive which also undertakes final assembly of the cars in Fradley, near Lichfield.

The award winning drivetrain design integrates the electric motor, power and control electronics into one compact assembly with only three connections: water, high voltage (300V) and low voltage (12V).

The unit is located in the rear of the smart ed, installed into the three engine mounts where the combustion engine would be in a conventional fortwo. The transmission, locked in second gear, is also located in the rear of the car. This means there is no gear shifting required, since the smart ed uses only one forward and one reverse gear.

The battery is housed in the underbody and although the smart ed is slightly heavier than the petrol version, this location gives a lower centre of gravity and enhanced handling characteristics. Furthermore, unlike a combustion engine vehicle, the kerb weight of the ed remains the same whether empty or full of fuel.

Cabin practicality is not compromised and the smart ed offers the same spacious dimensions for both passengers and luggage as before.

This latest electric smart also has all the safety features that you would find on a regular smart, so unlike many electric products on the market, there are ABS brakes, ESP, two airbags and seat belt pre-tensioners. smart ed also benefits from the Euro NCAP-tested tridion safety cell common to the rest of the fortwo range.

The UK market trial

The smart ed made its first appearance at the British International Motor Show in 2006. Since then the UK has started a market trial with 100 cars leased to a number of corporate partners, over a four year period. The first car was delivered to Coventry City Council in December 2007. Customers are leasing the vehicles at a monthly cost of £375.

Dermot Kelly, Managing Director Mercedes Car Group, said: "A market trial of the smart ed is a significant step for the Mercedes Car Group as it is an important part of our commitment to sustainable mobility.

"Involving 100 smart eds, in this market trial phase we are working with our corporate partners to find suitable applications for the ed and with green energy suppliers to deliver zero emissions from well to wheel."

Carbon neutrality

Part of the development of the smart ed includes measuring and reducing wherever possible carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated through the production process and the logistics chain. In this trial, the remaining unavoidable emissions are being offset through a mixture of technology and forestry projects handled by The CarbonNeutral Company which will save and absorb 1 tonne of CO2 for every tonne created by smart ed. The offset projects are located in Germany and the UK in recognition of the vehicle’s European footprint.

Users are also pledging to recharge their cars with electricity generated from renewable energy sources wherever possible.

Cenex

The market trial is supported by project partner Cenex, the UK’s national Centre of Excellence for low carbon and fuel cell technologies (www.cenex.co.uk). This is an initiative funded by the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), and led by a core group of member organisations representing the broad cross-section of UK industry investing in low carbon and fuel cell technologies. Among a raft of commitments, Cenex is allocating direct funding to the UK pilot and helping to make the market trial more attractive to public and private sector operators. Cenex itself is trialling four of the cars.

The smart ed project represents the largest electric vehicle trial to be undertaken in the UK in recent years and Cenex is using the field trial phase to collect useful information on the suitability of electric vehicles to different fleet operations to help inform both fleet operators and technology developers about the market requirements for electric vehicles.

As well as studying the performance and reliability of the powertrain under real world conditions and drive cycles, Cenex is monitoring users’ experiences, noting when personal choice affected their choice to use the vehicle for a particular task and when trip/job requirements prevent this.

Among the smart ed trial participants are:

Coventry City Council

First to receive a smart ed, Coventry City Council uses its smart ed within its fleet of pool vehicles, a facility which allows employees to leave their cars at home when they travel to work, but to still have access to vehicles for business journeys.

Councillor Gary Ridley, cabinet member for climate change, housing and sustainability said: "As the biggest employer in the city, we should be leading by example and encouraging other businesses to think about their carbon footprint and their impact on the environment while carrying out their day to day activities. To make its running costs even greener, the electricity used to recharge the car is from renewable resources."

Metropolitan Police Service

The Met is using four smart eds in London for routine police operations. Two are decked out in Met Police livery and are being deployed in Central London and at Heathrow Airport.

Stuart Middleton, Director of Transport Services, said: "The public might be surprised to see smart police cars on the streets of London but we’re very excited about taking part in this market trial.

"Policing a city like London brings its own particular challenges and we’re always keen to try out new innovations and ideas. The smart ed enables us to have a police presence in very congested areas."

Refurb-A-Sash

Traditional sash window specialist Refurb-A-Sash is replacing its existing smarts with eds as part of an overall environmental policy. Proprietor, Adrian Thompson, commented: "We are making a concerted effort to reduce the impact of our business on the environment. We’ve installed a wood recycler which will be used to heat our building. The electricity we save will power our smart eds, meaning we will be carbon free from well to wheel."

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