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Not-So-Smart Fourtwo?

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On: Tue, May 17, 2011 at 1:31PM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Not-So-Smart Fourtwo?

Technology for the most part is good. Technology is also fun, to some extent, but it does have its drawbacks. Sometimes, on the way to making something truly special, there are a lot of... not so innovative... innovations. The laserdisc player, the eight-track, video phones, Charlie Sheen, car stereo remotes, they all had high buy-in costs and low returns in terms of usability and entertainment. Most of these non-comedians eventually led to actual useful results in modern day life, but we had to go through a bit of a technological adolescence that was more infamous than famous.  

Right now, America is going through a similar period with automobiles. Before we can get to true freedom from oil, we have to get past this time of awkward growth. We know we can't survive on gasoline much longer, and ideally electric cars are the way we are going. We can see glimpses of the future with cars like the new Porsche 918 Hybrid and Mercedes SLS AMG E-Cell on the high end, as well as the Prius, Volt, and Leaf on the low end of the price spectrum.

But these are the best of what is out there right now. It's a big and upcoming market that will affect almost everyone of driving age in the United State, and it seems there is one more participant in this fray: The Smart Car. However, it seems that their latest all-battery, Electric Drive Fourtwo might have some wondering just how intelligent a choice it is at the moment.

The Smart Fourtwo Electric Drive has the same basic dimensions as its gas-guzzling sibling with a wheelbase of 73.5 inches, 106.1 inches of total length, 61.4 inches wide, and a height of 60.7 inches. Out goes the old fuel furnace up front and in its place is a 16.5-kWh lithium battery that is projected to have a range of about 84 miles, but that could be a bit overstated according to some research. Peak output comes in at 40 whole horsepower, but that is not a constant supply; under normal circumstances only a little more than half of that (27 to be exact) is available for commuting concerns.

As with all electric motors, torque is usually pretty impressive, and with 88.5 pound-feet, we suppose the Smart Fortwo ED is no exception, comparatively speaking. Even with the lighter 1-speed direct drive transmission, all that battery power brings the weight up 308 pounds to just under 2200, which may not sound like much, but with as much power as a dozen lawnmowers, every pound counts with this car. Smart says that 60 mph comes up as quickly as the regular Fortwo at 6.5 seconds, but in the real world, think more than double that time for most sprints.

Now comes the really interesting part: Price. Like your first iPhone, technology in its beginning stages is expensive. The Smart Fortwo ED comes in with lease terms that rival that of an Audi A6 or Porsche Cayman. They're asking for $2500 up front and $599/month for the coupe and $650 for the convertible. That is a lot of cash for a little car. There are some tax credits being offered, and a company called Coulomb Technology is offering in-home charging stations at no charge with each car, thanks to a government grant.

So, will the Fortwo ED set the world afire? No, probably not. It is just another step on the way to our independence from oil. Eventually this technology will become cheaper and we'll look back to cars like these and see the evolution with a bit more perspective, but for now, it's up to the public to decide just how smart of a decision buying one of these Electric Drive models is today.

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