Smart E pants. The way it was meant to be.

It’s official. The Smart ED is coming to market soon. And much cheaper than the corporate leases on the trial scheme, too. Not only that, but the cute little two-seater from the boffins at Daimler A.G now has an all-improved battery out of the world’s most favorite sports car.

When the Smart for two debuted back in 1998 many folks viewed it as a joke car. After all, it wasn’t full-sized and it certainly didn’t seem to have much in the way of grunt. It’s tiny engine, smaller than the ones found in many a motorbike, was capable of motorway speeds and incredible fuel economy. At the time when everyone else was going bigger, the smart showed you that small was cool. Somehow, despite dwindling sales and terrible reputations for reliability the little car with the big personality found a place in the heart of the European consumer and has gone from strength to strength, becoming a famous and reliable car.

The smart was one of the first cars to sport such features as exchangeable composite panels – if you had a ding in town and needed a replacement panel this could be done in a matter of minutes rather than hours and many customers even had panels color-coordinated with the latest fashion trends. These switchable panels made the smart a highly recyclable car from the start and very few vehicles ended up in the scrap yard, even though the early models suffered badly from poorly built engines.

But let’s look for a second at what the smart has been screaming out for ever since it’s inception as a plug in hybrid/electric. Y’see, the Smart was never meant to be a petrol vehicle. It had initially been conceived as an hybrid/electric car and somewhere along the way it got lost. Who is responsible for that is tough to say although it’s highly probable that Daimler AG didn’t want a hybrid. That is pure hearsay,  but the Smart ended up becoming the small petrol (and later Diesel) sipping hit that it’s known for world-wide.

A trio of Smart EDs in Jersy. Photo by Up Your Ego, under Non Commercial Creative Commons Licence.

Back in 2007 it was announced that the Smart ED would be launched, trailing with corporate clients. At last! A real electric town car. It was billed as having an 80 mile range, with up to 80 miles an hour top speed. It all looked great. The figures for the rental/lease was not. As a small business owner I signed up for more information, hoping that I could take part in this new test scheme. Alas, the cost of the rental (nearly £400 a month if I remember correctly) plus a crippling balloon payment and an agreement that I’d give the car back after three years. I just couldn’t justify it or afford it.

Back then, the battery in the prototype Smart was a Zebra battery – the battery of choice a few years ago for anyone wanting high power and good performance. Since then though and with battery tech changing significantly, there’s a new battery tech in the Smart.

Earlier this year Daimler AG and Tesla Motor Company got jiggy. And they’ve formed a rather lucrative partnership. The fastest, sexiest electric vehicle out there at the moment gets to sire the battery tech in one of Europe’s favorite town runabouts. That’s right. Those lithium puppies in your new Smart car share a heritage with a Tesla. That’s like having the fuel system from a Ferrari in your mini metro. Sweeeeeet.

It’s all coming our way. Sadly though, not until 2012. But it is coming. The commercial smart ED will cost an estimated £150 a month to own on lease – a lot less than the current trailed models. With a range of over 100 miles and motorway capable speed it could quite easily give the iMiev and other city EVs a run for their money. Let’s hope nothing happens between now and then to change Daimler Smart’s mind. It’s unlikely to happen, given the UK governmental grant scheme for EV purchase after 2011, but until I actually see cars out there I’ll remain wary. A lot of things can happen in two years.

But, if it does come to market the Smart ED is bound to fly off the forecourts. What better vehicle to choose to electrify than one which is eminently at home in the urban environment. One which already looks the part of the chiq runabout. The fashionable, stylish two seater that gets you from A to B with a huge smile on your face and a low carbon footprint to boot. A real car, not a quardicycle. A car which the public already know and love and trust.  Compare that to the G-Wiz, or the Nice car, or even the Th!nk. At the end of the day if you had to choose between the Smart ED and a G Wiz – which one would YOU choose?

I think I know, but I want to find out for sure. I can’t wait for a test drive. Who wants to join me?