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Smart starts round two of electric Fortwo trials

Date: 23 July 2009   |   Author:

Smart is aiming to have its latest electric Fortwo model on general sale in the UK in 2012, following on from a second wave of trials with the car that start next year under the Government's new £25m electric car scheme.

The battery-powered version of the second generation Fortwo will arrive in 2010 with more than 100 members of the public given the chance to take part in the new trials. The Government grant for schemes running in the West Midlands and London mean Smart hopes to get the lease cost those applying to take part below £200, rather than the first trial's £380 per month cost for participating fleets. One hundred of the previous-generation 'mark one' have been on trial with UK fleets for more than a year. The trials are designed to gear up to a 2012 launch of the electric Smart as a factory model, which will benefit from the pledged £5000 Government subsidy for electric models from 2011.

Mercedes-Benz UK MD Dermot Kelly told BusinessCar that he believes fleets hold the key to widespread take-up of electric models.

"With the encouragement of Government going forward.there is a very high probability that in the future a high percentage of cars will be electric and we need to be at the forefront of that."

The firm will be looking to lease its first full-production electric models. "There are three issues," said Kelly. "The car itself will be more expensive; people forget the cost of recharging is less than £1 - we prefer to go down the lease route and talk about whole-life costs. And we want to make sure we are in a position to recycle the batteries; we want to control the vehicle's end of life. The third issue is that early adopters like to have the comfort of leasing."

Although there will be some range improvement with the second-generation, the firm is focussed on developing the software and battery charging to accompany the system. "We're not treating customers as Guinea pigs: we're giving the customers the latest technology," said Kelly. "The battery is a Tesla one - we are now a shareholder of that company."