Diminutive EV hopes to challenge the big boys with US launch

Smart has delivered its first retail electric vehicle in the US, the start of a rollout which will see 250 Smart Fortwo Electric Drives on the road by the end of the year.

The first Fortwo EV was delivered to Mindy Kimball, a US Army Major and electric car enthusiast, who intends to display the vehicle at the Washington Auto Show, which begins in Washington DC January 28.

The all-electric Fortwo boasts a range of up to 98 miles (157 km) on a full charge and can recharge from empty in around eight hours, making it comparable to the Nissan Leaf in terms of performance, although it is much smaller in size.

The 250 first models will be given to select individual, public and corporate customers, with Smart planning for series production to begin on a much larger scale next year.

Smart Fortwos are already being extensively tested in the United Kingdom and Germany, with other pilot schemes on the road in a further 15 countries - Smart says that 1,500 electric versions of the iconic two-seaters will be produced before next year.

In the US, it's hoped that an all-electric version can give the diminutive Fortwo a much needed boost - last year's sales figures were something of an embarrassment for the firm, with fewer than 6,000 vehicles sold, a fall of 59 percent on 2009.

Turning that around will depend on the brand's ability to tempt drivers away from homegrown electric vehicles which will already be established by 2012 (such as the Chevrolet Volt and Ford Focus), with Smart hoping to capture some of the "cool" cache that the Fortwo holds in European cities.

http://www.smartusa.com/electricdrive

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