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Electric Smart car starts with limitations

April 23, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Rising gas prices may have many people thinking of springing for an electric car.

One to consider is the Smart Electric Drive, a plug-in battery-powered version of the gasoline Smart that's been on sale for the past few years, which can go from 63 to more than 90 miles on a single charge.

A recharge takes four to six hours at 240 volts, or 10 to 12 hours on 110 volts of household power. That's about $2 to $3 on a power bill.

It can be taken on the freeway, but top speed is limited to 65, which isn't always the speed traffic flows at. It's most at home on city streets.

Aside from those limitations, it's just like the regular Smart, which was actually designed to be electric from the beginning.

The charging system and electric motor fit into the same space as the conventional engine and the batteries sit below the floor so passenger and cargo space are unchanged.

Air conditioning, power windows and a basic stereo with auxiliary inputs are all standard.

The Smart electric is not yet up for sale. A lease starts at a rather steep $599 a month.

By comparison, it's only $349 to $379 to lease the all-electric Nissan Leaf. The price also looks astronomical next to the cost to lease a conventional Smart that runs on gasoline.

Being an early adopter is hardly ever a bargain. Smart's working on the next phase of their electric vehicle program, so by next year there should be a much more affordable updated version with even better range.

For now, the electric Smart will be whooshing around, not using expensive gasoline and trying to earn back some of its rather upscale monthly tab.