Test drive of Smart ForTwo Electric car

The Smart ForTwo Electric Drive (or ED, if you favor unfortunate acronyms) is differentiated from its internal combustion cousins by little more than a few splashes of green paint and a load of decals and emblems. The first handful of the vehicles will only be available in the color combination you see above in order to help Smart build awareness of its EV program, and honestly, it's not a bad combo. We dig the color-matched three-lug wheels, and the ED logo is clever enough to keep from being pompous. Otherwise, you'll still get plenty of the brand's love it or loathe it styling from every corner. We know it doesn't make much sense, but the looks seem more livable given the electric drivetrain rather than the modestly-efficient gasoline engine. Anyone who's fielded a boatload of questions about the ForTwo inevitably gets asked if it's electric, and now they can respond in the affirmative.

Likewise, little has changed inside the car's cabin with the exception of a few new gauges. Two pods now keep tabs on the charge of the ED's battery pack and how much the battery is either discharging or recharging in kilowatts. The ForTwo Electric Drive carries an onboard recharging system capable of restoring up to 10 kilowatts at a time as you use the car's regenerative brakes. Otherwise, the interior is the same wild metallic green paint that makes its way indoors for the instrument cluster, and a new iPod integration kit is also available.

Don't think the lack of changes inside is exactly a bad thing, though. We've always been impressed with the amount of room Smart has managed to cram inside of the bubbly ForTwo, and there's plenty of space for above average-sized folks. Our only gripe is that the high seating position, short nose and near vertical windshield combine to make eying stoplights difficult if you're first in line. Otherwise, the controls are easy to navigate and a cinch to reach

But the big news is, of course, what puts power to the wheels. Smart has sacrificed the standard 1.0-liter three-cylinder gas engine and automated manual transmission in favor of all-electric goodies, including a 20-kilowatt electric motor that's capable of "boosting" up to 30 kilowatts and is attached to a fixed gear. That works out to around 40 horsepower in boost mode, or 57 percent of what the standard gasoline powerplant produces, though the motor does muster up a hefty 88 pound-feet of torque to help scoot the car along. That figure is 20 lb-ft more than what the standard ForTwo delivers.


That fixed gear means top speed is governed to just 62 mph, and Smart says that the run to 37 mph takes around 6.5 seconds. Initially, Smart will be offering what it calls Level II technology in the ForTwo Electric Drive, and that means that power is stored on board via a 16.5 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack developed by none other than the good folk at Tesla Motors. If you recall, Smart's parents at Daimler snapped up a 10-percent stake in Tesla last year with the aim of partnering on an EV. The result is the ForTwo Electric Drive.


That doesn't mean Smart will be relying on hand-me down tech from Tesla forever, though. Daimler is currently working on a proprietary battery pack and electric motor for both the ForTwo Electric Drive and an upcoming Mercedes-Benz A-Class EV that's due to be sold in Europe in a few years. That tech falls under the banner of Level III, and will be what buyers can expect to pick up when it officially goes on sale in 2012 as a 2013 model.

For now, though, you get Tesla bits in your Smart EV. And that's obviously not a bad thing. The company says that the car can be charged through any 220 volt outlet – the same current your dryer uses – in around 3.5 hours so long as the battery is between a 20-to-80 percent state of charge. If absolutely drained, you're looking at around eight hours to top off the cells. If you don't feel like running a 220 volt line to your garage (or unplugging your air compressor), Smart says that owners will technically be able to charge their ForTwo Electric drive via a standard 110 volt plug, though charge times will increase to around 14 hours. Either way, range sits at around 83 miles depending on driving conditions, or around four to five hours of cruise time at typical highway speeds.


As with most electric vehicles, the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive is a porker compared to its siblings. Even after stripping out the tiny three-pot engine and transmission and replacing them with a battery pack and a motor, the car weighs 300 pounds more than the standard internal-combustion variants. The curb weight sits at a still minimalist 2,100 pounds, and while you'd expect the extra heft to have a negative impact on the car's drivability, the truth is, it doesn't.


Let's be clear about this: We aren't fans of adding weight to any vehicle for any purpose. It simply goes against every grain of our being, but with additional weight on the springs, the ForTwo feels considerably less bouncy than it's less tech-laden siblings. Even over the broken tarmac of Brooklyn, the little EV was confidently planted on the hard stuff. Steering is still light, but we wouldn't call it disconnected by any means, and the regenerative brakes are capable without being grabby.



That is, if it didn't cost an arm and a leg. Starting this summer, Smart will lease 250 ForTwo Electric Drive models here in the United States as part of a 1,500-unit world-wide launch. Around 80 percent of those will go to corporations and municipalities, leaving the rest to be divvied out on a first-come, first-serve basis. Both corporate and private customers can look forward to paying $599 a month for a 48-month lease. Throw in a $2,500 down payment, and you're looking at a total of $31,000 just for the privilege of being an early adopter. And mileage is capped at 10,000 miles per year.


If you have a single working brain cell in your skull, you can probably come up with dozens of better options, but that price isn't going to be around forever. Smart plans to outright sell the ForTwo Electric Drive to customers starting mid 2012 as a 2013 model, and the company says the MSRP will be considerably lower than the lease price. We certainly hope so.

Mitsubishi i-MIEV Starts Trials in North East England

The British division of Mitsubishi announced today it will be supplying six all-electric i-MiEVs in North East England to start the next stage of the trials taking place in the region. This    was made possible thanks to a partnership with Cenex as part of the latter’s Low Carbon Vehicle Procurement Programme (LCVPP).
The vehicles will form the next phase of the 'Smart Move' trial, a major part of the collaboration between Cenex and Regional Development Agency One North East.
“Cenex is pleased to continue our collaboration with One North East on electric vehicle deployment via this extension to our joint Smart Move project. The i-MiEV deployed in the Smart Move project will provide valuable learning concerning electric vehicle acceptance and future market development,“ Robert Evans, CEO of Cenex, said in a release.
The first part of the Cenex ‘Smart Move’ trial gave hundreds of drivers the chance to get behind the wheel of an electric car through placements in vehicle fleets at local authorities and at public test drive events. Trial results showed that vehicle fleets like those at local authorities could provide a successful early market for electric vehicles.
“With a range of 80 miles, a top speed of 81 mph, as well as minimal servicing and running costs and ample cabin space, it will prove that electric vehicles can be utilised without compromise in an organisation’s fleet,” added Mitsubishi Motors’ Managing Director, Lance Bradley.
As the electric vehicle market is on its way of gaining recognition in the UK, One North East is installing 1,300 charging points across the region as part of the national Plugged in Places programme.
The first 40 charging points in the network have already been installed across Tyneside by Newcastle Council, and the UK’s first solar-powered charging canopy was installed earlier this year at Gateshead Civic Centre’s public car park.

Volkswagen Jetta TDI 2010 Review

Nobody disputes that Volkswagen comes extremely close to being included in the entry-level luxury class, if it doesn’t qualify already. The segment boasts such brands as Acura, Saab, Volvo, and I suppose Buick now that the domestic brand is finally putting out product that’s worthy of inclusion. While Volkswagen dips down a bit further in price than most of these contenders, its premium-level quality and technology is always present, and in the case of some of its models, top-tier fuel economy.
Recently I had the chance to spend a week in VW’s Jetta TDI, and by so doing enjoyed an extremely thrifty seven days of luxury motoring. Thrift and luxury together? Yes, while feasting on the premium plastics, playing with the top-grade switchgear and fully supported in light gray leather enhanced with multi-level seat heaters, not to mention an attractive woven headliner overhead that wraps down each pillar like only premium cars do, I was feeling rather smug at my TDI’s ridiculously stingy 6.7L100km city and 4.6L100km highway fuel consumption rating. It pulled me along by VW’s stout little 2.0-litre turbo-diesel making a moderate 140 horsepower at 4,250 rpm yet a positively spirited 236 lb-ft of torque from a low 1,750 rpm up to 2,500 rpm. All that torque gets fed to the front wheels via Volkswagen’s ultra-advanced six-speed DSG dual-clutch sequential automatic transmission with manual mode.
The TDI comes standard with a six-speed manual, while I should probably also mention that base model Jettas come with a five-speed manual connecting through to a torquey 2.5-litre five-cylinder while a zippy 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder is also available. I prefer the Jetta the way Volkswagen fitted my tester, in drive train and trim level.
As mentioned, my example featured leather seats and therefore Highline trim; Trend line is base and Comfort line in between. New for Jetta this year is a Wolfsburg edition, which replaces last year’s GLI model. The Wolfsburg is the sportiest iteration, and while my heart would naturally gravitate towards this model, fuel prices over a dollar per liter has my mind winning the inner battle of passion versus pragmatism. And like I mentioned earlier, with 236 lb-ft of torque on tap, it’s hardly like we’re asked to give up much for such stellar fuel economy.
Over and above the leather upholstery, the Highline comes with a few unique features overtop the Trend line and Comfort line, such as a power sunroof, a multifunction steering wheel, iPod interface and Bluetooth connectivity, plus a digital compass, multifunction trip computer, rear seat centre armrest with pass-through, rear side airbags and also on the safety front, rear seatbelt pretensioners. Consider that these items get added onto Comfort line features, which include a leather-wrapped steering wheel, driver's seat with power recline and a premium 6-CD stereo with Sirius satellite radio, plus the base Trendline features that include air conditioning, auto up/down powered windows, powered locks with keyless entry, heated power-remote mirrors with integrated turn signals, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, variable intermittent wipers, cruise control, auxiliary input jack for the audio system, eight-way manually-adjustable seats, and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, it’s a pretty impressive package.
Out on the road the Jetta TDI feels solid and secure, with a quiet interior benefiting by minimal road, wind and engine noise. The ride is good, but should be categorized on the firm Germanic side of the equation, which makes handling better than average for this class, a Volkswagen trademark. Excepting the sportier Wolfsburg, all Jettas get 16-inch wheels riding on 205/55R16 all-season tires, but the Comfortline and Highline get alloy rims. Electronic stability control, traction control, and ABS-enhanced disc brakes all-round with standard brake assist come standard on Highline.
One of the big features that came as part of the Jetta’s fifth generation upgrade was the trunk, increased to a staggering 500 liters’ (17.6 cu ft)! That puts this smaller than average midsize model in the Lincoln Town Car class for luggage space, and the rear seat accommodations aren’t too shabby either.
You luggage and more importantly occupants will be safe inside, not only thanks to the most side airbags in its class, but also because the current generation Jetta uses extensive high strength steel in its body structure, plus the laser welding of body parts went up from 5% to 35%. This resulted in double-digit increases in both dynamic and torsional rigidity. Volkswagen included other body innovations such as an impact-absorbing front bumper that yields slightly in the event of a collision with a pedestrian, reducing injury, while a new door design made it possible to remove and replace only the outer panel if damaged, rather than the entire door, reducing repair costs.
There’s so much more to the Jetta that’s worth talking about, but when it comes right down to it what matters more to most VW buyers is Teutonic attributes built into ever model. These include simple, straightforward yet stylish design, high-quality workmanship inside and out, performance-oriented road manners and superb fuel economy, and the 2010 Jetta TDI fits the bill in every respect, backed up by a premium-like 4-year or 80,000 km comprehensive and 5-year or 100,000 powertrain warranty, plus 4-year unlimited mileage roadside assistance.
Yes, the Jetta TDI is a premium experience for a pauper’s price, the Trendline starting at $24,475, the Comfortline for $27,175, and the top-line Highline out the door at only $30,875, plus $1,365 for freight and pre-delivery inspection. Is it an entry-level premium vehicle? It certainly feels like one, and made me ask why someone would want to spend more for premium badge.

China gets first electric Volkswagen

The deliverable Lavida in China could be the first electric car by Volkswagen can be. The Chinese government encourages the production of electric cars with attractive bonuses.

Volkswagen are already cautious plans for an electric car forged under the name Blue-e-motion.
The small model Up! in 2013 with E-drive and that also applies to the seventh generation Golf, also in 2013 on the role state. Then the electric variant of the Volkswagen Lavida, the Chinese market designed especially for the sedan model based on the Golf 4.

Local insiders report that E-Lavida ever before in the sale could proceed. The Chinese government has announced a few weeks ago, namely that manufacturers a subsidy of 60,000 RMB (approximately 5,500 euros) in the production of every built electric car in order to get the purchase price attractive. Ordinary Lavida costs about 8,000 euro, the E-Lavida with aid to about 11,000 euros.

E-Lavida who has the same drive concept as the E-Bay, with a lithium-ion battery pack and a continuous power of 69 kW and a maximum of pk/50 pk/85 115 kW.
The range of over 1,500 kg whereas E-Bay is like most EVs 150 km. Surprising feature of the Gulf Blue-e-motion is the way to recover braking energy can be arranged. Are paddles on the steering column because we know from sporty automatic transmissions? They are the Blue-e-motion (which has no gearbox) designed to make a phased "downshifting" to three different levels for remenergieregeneratie - weak, normal and strong. The E-Lavida has not flippers.

Mercedes-Benz Dealerships To Use Apple iPad For Better Customer Interaction

Mercedes-Benz has decided that 40 dealerships in US will use Apple iPad to communicate and interact with customers.
Mercedes announced that the dealerships will receive Apple iPads in order to for communicate and interact with  their customers. The German automaker will implement the MB Advantage application that will be available via the gadget’s interface.
For the beginning, 40 dealerships in USA will receive the Apple gadgets, and then, during summer, the company will gather and analyze the information from them. Introducing iPad in the dealerships network is a smart move from Mercedes, this being previously demonstrated by iPhone.
In las year’s October Mercedes was introducing such an application for iPhone, and until now there have been registered over 5,000 transactions via this interface. When asked about the advantages of this novelty, Bernie Moreno, Mercedes-Benz Ohio President said that the new Mercedes-Benz products and the Apple iPad MB Advantage app offers the company high credibility among their customers.