Smart ForTwo; Electric Drive
The Drive To Push Electric
This is long, so I suggest you get a cup of you’re favourite brew and get comfy. I’m sure others will have a myriad of opposing views to mine, regarding the drive towards electric cars. This blog is based purely on my own thoughts, opinions and actual real experience, as I embarked upon recent EV ownership. As time passes this may all change, and if so I will update the blog accordingly. Ok, lets get into it.
Maintenance, Servicing & Charging
It seems everywhere you turn you’re bombarded with EV car adverts, the government and manufacturers are going full on pushing us all to transition to electric. All well and good, but from my limited exposure I see a few problems, these being charging, servicing/diagnostics/repair and then there is the cost of the actual car and a home charger. That’s without opening the can of worms which is range, which for many will depend on charging hops for long distances.
Servicing & Who can Do It?
More importantly are all local garages geared up for parallel services for both ICE & EV and the eventual transistion from ICE to EV servicing and repair. I think from my recent experience of the past 14-days, the answer to this is a plain simple NO! Maybe in more populated areas this is not the case, perhaps you know differently, if so drop a comment below.
For example the local garage and mechanic I’ve used for a number of years, and wished to continue using cannot touch electric cars. When I asked why, he said they would need to install a dedicated bay purely for electric vehicles, at considerable cost. Why would he bother as the percentage of people with EV’s being so low. Secondly, he would need to have all the relevant retraining and gear to be able to so, especially due to the HV battery system.
This was not a singular case, literally every other garage I contacted in the local area repeated pretty much the same story. I’ve ended up having to take out a club membership at Mercedes Benz 18-miles from me in Stockton-on-Tees. This is a monthly fee that gives me full annual servicing, which included parts, software updates and labour & VAT. There was literally no other choice. I’m not too bothered by this, it’s a fairly reasonable fee and at least I know the techs are fully trained on the car. The only gripe is the distance, my goto garage was within walking distance, no longer will I have that luxury, not until all garages are EV capable.
V.E.D. & Charging, Plus EV Grants & NETZERO
As of 2022, the government have ceased the discount grant incentive for new EV cars, they also ceased grants on home EV charge pods. Also announced in 2022, that as of April 2025 all EV cars manufactured from March 2017 – March 2025, will have to start paying £165 road tax p.a. EV cars manufactured after March 2025 will pay just £20 p.a. Finally the luxury vehical TAX will apply to all EV cars over £40,000 for the first 5-years of the cars life.
The new tax on electric vehicles reflects mounting concern within the Treasury that the drive for net zero will rob the government of huge tax revenues paid by motorists. Electric vehicles have been exempt from both the annual £165 VED standard rate and the £335 ‘premium supplement’ levied on new cars costing more than £40,000. Figures suggest (as of 2023) there are almost 600,000 electric vehicles on the UK’s roads and they now account for one in six new cars sold. A further 430,000 plug-in hybrid cars also pay a reduced rate of road tax.
Studies have forecast that the switch could eventually cost the Treasury £7 billion in lost VED, along with a further £27 billion a year in fuel duty unless taxes are introduced to cover electric vehicles. All this is hardly conducive to encouraging transistion to electric vehicles, but I guess inevitable considering the revenue they were loosing.
Home chargers are not only fairly expensive to purchase, but equally expensive to have installed and to be honest you’re going to want one at home. These cannot just be hooked into your existing consumer unit, there are a whole load of regs around them. I also wonder what are multiple occupation dwellings or high rise blocks of flats are meant to do? For example do building owners have to install 150 pods, how, where, and who pays for that?
Public Pods. More investment is also needed to the public infrastrusture to increase UK-wide charge pods. For example, in my small town in County Durham (21,000 population) alone there are only 4 at Tescos, 2 at Morrisons, 2 in a town car park and finally one at the local college. Allegedly there are a couple at Sainsbury’s, but I’ve yet to find them. Conversely, there are more petrol stations with multiple pumps in town than you can shake a charger at.
Not that I personally need a local charge point as did opt to have my own at home, but the point being people travelling through and wanting to charge have limited points to do so, unlike petrol. This disparity is not unique to my town, but I suggest typical throughout the UK. Encouragingly County Durham will be one of nine areas to benefit from a £20 million scheme to improve electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure under the govenment LEVi scheme. It will see 100 new EV charge points installed across the county, particularly in rural areas where there is less infrastructure and in areas where residents do not have access to off-street parking. The North East has only 3.1 per cent of the UK’s charge points, the lowest of any British region, compared to London and the South East with 42.5 per cent. This funding will enable County Durham to increase EV infrastructure and help bridge that gap.
Charging Networks & Paying
The UK has a number of public EV charging networks, with some offering national coverage and others only found in a specific regions. Major charging networks include bp pulse, GeniePoint, GRIDSERVE, InstaVolt, Osprey, Pod Point and ubitricity. Payment and access methods across networks vary, with some networks providing an RFID card and others a smartphone app to use their services. While most require an account to be set up before use, some rapid units with contactless PAYG card readers are starting to be installed. More info her at ZapMap.
The trouble being a newb to it, it’s all so confusing, multiple apps a multitude of payment methods.
- BP Pulse: Subscription, pay via app, contactless payment
- PodPoint: Pay via app, contactless payment
- InstaVolt: Pay via app, contactless payment
- ChargePlace Scotland: RFID access card, pay via app, pay via web
- GridServe: Contactless payment
If the government truly want us to transition from ICE to EV, then they need ensure there is equalising of the infrastructure for EV. As of 2023 there are about 23,000 locations with a national total of 39,000 charge points.
How Green Are EV’s Really? How many Ooops.
To build an electric car battery manufacturers need lithium, and to find lithium, they need the high altitude salt flats of Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. There, beneath brine lakes, is the mud rich in manganese, potassium, borax, and lithium salts. It’s chemical and water intensive to isolate lithium from all that mud, and it takes even more energy to make a functional car battery from it. As a result, building a clean burning EV battery is twice as greenhouse gas intensive as making a conventional internal combustion engine, Ooop’s! No.1
It would seem I fell into the trap, Ooop’s No.1 is at best tenuous
Thanks to Mike (Cathosvisor) for the link
The answer they say to that is the high emissions “buy-in” of an electric car can be off-set as EV’s are always cleaner to drive per mile, compared to an ICE-powered one, which is certainly true. The problem however to get that advantage, means you need to ‘burn off’ the emissions associated with manufacturing the EV car. An ICE-powered car has an emissions head start, but once the EV is driven enough, it regains a “green lead” with its low per-mile emissions. Guess that means for someone like me who only drives locally, I’m never going to off-set, and there lies the trouble, most of these cars are aimed at city commutes. Ooop’s! No.2
I’ve also heard rumours that the UK Gov is considering an EV “Brake & Tyre” pollution tax, yes you read that correctly EV’s pollute too.
Now I admit these are just rumours, but I would not put it past them. Apparently EV’s due to their increased weight emit more dangerous particles into the atmosphere than internal combustion engine cars. How might you ask? It would seem due to this weight the brakes and tyres have to work harder and the road surface more adversely impacted. Both these combined, release even more damaging particles into the environment than the emissions from an ICE. Ooop’s! No.3
Oh how ironic and convenient! The skeptic in me wonders if the calculations were run showing that letting EV cars off road tax due to no combustion pollutants, combined with more over time moving to EV, would result in way too much revenue loss. Hence the possible new EV Brake and Tyre Tax? We shall see how that one plays out. I suspect the further one digs the more Ooop’s we could uncover.
Another good bit of updated news, the UK looks set to get its first lithium refinary and its up here in the N.E.
Again, many thanks to Mike (Cathovisor) for the aditional research.
Despite all the above why did I buy one?
A number of reasons, the main one being I had just become car-less and needed something, he’s why I came to be without transport.
My previous car was a massive 3.0Ltr, AWD Lexus SUV, it guzzled petrol at an alarming rate. Road tax was £240 p.a. Insurance was about the same. I never did any distance driving just town, and the farthest afield I went was about 30-miles. However, the deciding factor was the Lexus was now 20-years old, it was starting to cost a lot of money to maintain. Then it went and failed its recent MOT with a fairly hefty bill required to put it right.
This was the catalyst for me to change, so I sold the Lexus to an auction house and was pleasantly surprised at the money it returned. That got me thinking I need to be a bit smarter (pun intended) with my next choice of car.
What Did I Buy
I’m no ECO warrior, but it did finally make sense for me to perhaps go electric based on my driving habits. So I opted for the 4th generation of EV offered by Smart or in truth, Smart is a division of Daimler AG, the parent corporation of Mercedes-Benz.
I’m no newcomer to Smart cars, previously I have owned petrol versions. First was a 2004 Smart ForTwo Pulse in all black, then a 2004 Passion Cabrio in two-tone silver and finally a 2005 Smart Roadster. This will be the fourth Smart car I’ve owned, and coincidently it is the fourth generation of the electric Smart ForTwo, the first hitting the streets of London back in 2007.
My new Smart ForTwo is a 2017 17.6kW Prime (Premium Plus). The Premium Plus pack giving, colour coded wheels, heated leather seats, heated steering wheel, climate control and a whole raft of other options I shan’t bore you with, needless to say it’s fully loaded with toys, even radar. The Electric Drive, with its lithium-ion battery good for a claimed 100 miles, that range however entirely dependent on weather conditions, your driving style plus ancillaries being used. That’s pretty much par for the course for any electrically powered vehicle.
The Power Train
Energy comes from a compact high-voltage lithium-ion battery pack which encloses three HV modules and a total of 96 HV cells. It has a capacity of 17.6 kW when fully charged, sufficient for a range claimed to be up to 103 miles/159 kms. Replacement batteries have come down in price a lot of the past few years, where you once might have paid 20K, then 5K, now they’re around £85 per kw. That’s roughly brought the cost dow to £1.5K less fitting, of course prices vary . Here’s a look at the battery pack (see below) as designed by Daimler AG for the Smart EV. It consists of 96 3.6V cells all charged to around 3.7V, giving a combined 355V. The smart EV also has a standard 12V battery mounted in the front under the bonnet, the HV battery resides under the floor.
► Range 100 miles
► 80bhp and 118lb ft from 0 rpm
► 80% charge in as little as 2.5 hours
Energy can also be recovered through recuperation. The Smart has Radar-based recuperation, which in the town/city driving is a particularly convenient feature. It allows the smart to slow down automatically behind a vehicle ahead. Coasting and braking phases are perfectly coordinated to enable the maximum amount of kinetic energy to be returned to the battery.
Powertrain and battery pack
Temperatures are crucial in all electric vehicles. Staying cool is important for optimum performance and the Smart engineers gave special attention to temperature management. While generously sized air cooling is enough for the electric motor, its flange-mounted power electronics are liquid-cooled.
The battery pack also gets cooling. When needed, it is integrated into the cooling circuit of the powertrain to remain in the optimal temperature range under high permanent load or during fast charging, for example. The same is true when temperatures are extremely low, which is just as bad as high temperatures. A battery heater enables warming up the battery for optimal performance and efficiency.
To make recharging as easy as possible for drivers, smart offers comprehensive charging options. Mine comes with the 7.6kW on-board charger with this rapid-charging function, the battery pack can be charged from the 10% to 80% range in under 2.5Hrs. It also has a standard 3-pin charger that can be used in a standard UK socket, charging in this manner takes around 6.5 hours. The latest Smarts now come equipped with a 22 kW on-board charger, allowing the battery pack to be charged from the 10% to 80% range in under 40 minutes.
Driving it home
By now I’m more than used to the jibes from opinionated people about Smart cars, such as, “Noddy car”, “shopping trolley” and “I can run faster than that thing goes”. I get the same jibes with my 1978 classic Allegro, “BL Killer”, “All Aggro”,”Rust Bucket (weren’t all 70s cars?), “More aerodynamic backwards”, ”don’t jack it up the rear window pops out” and “the rear wheels fall off”. All I suspect very amusing to those that utter them, but tiresome. Thankfully, variety is the spice of life and we all have different tastes. I would probably dislike your ‘Jalopy’ but have been brought up better to keep my thoughts to myself rather than blurting them out.
Besides, the slow jibe isn’t entirely fair since electric motors develop maximum torque in this case, 118lb ft torque from zero rpm, means it’s no sloth. When I left the showroom I was anxious, this was the first electric car I had driven, let alone even been a passenger in. How would it respond? I had to negotiate a busy roundabout, would it pull away quick enough? The old petrol Smarts were notoriously bad, mainly due to the awful semi auto gearbox and solenoid clutch. Now this could be overcome by manually shifting rather than leaving it in full auto mode.
With the electric version, I need not have worried, the power delivery is an instant dump, of the 118lb ft being instantly delivered to the rear wheels, this thing leaves the line like a stabbed rat or should that be Vrat. I had to hold on for dear life and back off, I was totally amazed at the performance. This thing will likely see off most at the traffic light grand prix, I shudder to think what a Tesla must be like! This is what the Smart should always have been like, electrification has now made it truly a pocket rocket. The Smart is finally given the correct power train it always needed.
As ther are no gears to worry about (the ForTwo uses a single speed like most electric cars) acceleration is instant, smooth and very quiet up to its limited top speed of 81mph. The new smart is also now longer and wider than the older Smarts, so no longer parking front in, to a kerb, not that I ever did, but it was possible on the earlier versions. As a result of the increase in car size, the cabin is now roomy and also mentioned very well-equipped and luxurious.
OK, it only has two seats, well, I’m very used to that as for about 20-years all I ever drove were two-seater sports cars. I’ve owned Porsche 911, 924, 944, TVR Tasmin, countless other 2 seaters MG, TR7, X19 Smart Roadster. The point there is not to brag but to say, all those were 2-seater fun and a pleasure to drive. Believe it or not the Smart EV equally puts a smile on my face everytime I get in it, as it’s equally fun to drive.
Home Charge Point
The quote from from the electrician to supply the charge pod revealed it to be £700, that was just the charger a further £450 installation costs. The charger had more bells and whistles than I needed, such as LCD display, charge time so you could set it to come on and off and CAT6 for data transfer. All I wanted was a simple one, tethered would be fine, I did not need and LCD interface nor the time or data abilty.
I found mine from Amazon, normally £369 however, I got a deal of the day price, reducing it to £332 and delivered free via prime. The S310 type 2 240V EV (see below) charging box has 32A (can be altered to 16A if required) output current and 7KW maximum power. The working current depends on car settings. It’s perfect for home garage use, which is where I had mine installed. The red reset button is used for an emergency shutdown. It has a tethered cable and is 28ft (8.53 metres) long. Tethered charges are much cheaper than just a pod. The smart automatically stops charging when it reaches capacity and the charge equally shuts down when it detects the same.
LED indicators on the front display the charging station’s working status. It also has RFID smart swipe charging design, you simply swipe the smart card (2 supplied) to start or stop charging, though I’ve disabled this feature (via internal jumper) for a number of reasons. One, the charger is located in a locked garage. Two, the charger is only live between 00:00hrs and 07:30hrs and three, nobody is really going to steal electricity to charge their car. Thieves are opportunistic by nature, are they really going to park across my drive, plugin and hang around while their car charges between midnight and seven am? The answer is no.
I did wonder about having the charger connected to my standard electricity supply, which would have meant charging was available 24hrs a day. I decided not to do that as charging during the day would at the time of writing this, cost 46.8p/kwH. By connecting to the Eco 7 circuit, charging is currently 18.6p/kwH. If in some unlikely event I needed to top up during the day, I could use the 3-pin charger instead of teh type-2 or nip down the road to Tescos or Morrisons and use the 7.6kw pod point there.
How Much to Charge?
The Smart EV uses the Type 2 charging standard for AC. The Type 2 inlet is used when charging at home or at public slow and fast AC points. The Smart EQ fortwo’s Type 2 inlet is found on the off-side rear 3/4 panel where you would expect to find a petrol flap.
Smart’s EQ fortwo is able to be slow and fast charged from public points, depending on network and type of charge unit. In most cases, slow charging requires a 3-pin to Type 2 cable (3kW), and fast charging via a Type 2-to-Type 2 cable (7kW), both of which are usually supplied with the vehicle.
|Fast 22kW||Fast 7kW||Slow 3kW (3-pin)
Having just recently purchased the car and only using it just a little under two weeks, I have to say I’m over the moon with it. As such, I have only charged it once via the 7kW charger which took just a couple of hours to 100%. Based on my estimated usage, I reckon I’ll only charge it about once a month for roughly 3-hours (overnight cheap rate). This means a full charge (a full tank) should cost me just £4.90 p.m. Prior to this I was probably spending in excess of £60 p.m topping the lexus up with petrol. Couple that with zero road tax (for now) and cheaper insurance, my costs of running a car have massively reduced.
That’s it, maybe some food for thought and debate, not everyones cup of tea I know, but at this point in time it make perfect sense for me to have an electric. I hope this blog was at least of some interest.