Right from the start the smart fortwo was designed to be radically different from other vehicles: as an electrically driven urban mobility concept. Environmentally compatible and resource-conserving, highly customisable and thoroughly affordable. The story of electric mobility from smart not only goes back a long way –
with the new electric family it also points the way to the future: all models from smart are now being electrified and are therefore once again ahead of the zeitgeist.
Vision of the future.
Bigger is better? In 1981 two examples were presented to counter this theory. At the International Consumer Electronics Fair in Berlin the compact disc celebrated its premiere – with more room for music than an LP despite much smaller dimensions.
At the same time Daimler released the "NAFA" (local transport vehicle) one-off vehicle, an extremely compact city car that not only offered lots of space with compact dimensions, but also aimed to solve problems such as a lack of parking spaces and crowded roads. With a length of just 2.5 metres and a height and width of 1.5 metres, "NAFA" presented a completely new way of thinking. An idea that sounded just as good back then as it does today. So why didn't it make it from the development department to city roads? The "NAFA" didn't meet the high Mercedes-Benz safety standards. However, the engineers regarded this as a challenge and later achieved a breakthrough with the monocoque principle taken from Formula 1 racing: the tridion safety cell saw the light of the world.
Let's take a closer look at this.
Some innovations take a little time to really catch on. For example video-telephony: when in 1992 AT&T presented the VideoPhone 2500 to the public, the company was forced to acknowledge that not enough people were prepared to spend $1599 on it.
The same year the newly founded Micro Compact Car AG, a joint venture between Daimler-Benz and Swatch inventor Nicolas Hayek, presented its first prototypes: for two electrically driven, ultra-compact and ultra-innovative cars. Nowadays every smartphone is a video phone. And will every smart be an electric vehicle tomorrow?
A question of size.
With the construction of Burj al Arab in Dubai, a superlative hotel was created. Size, shape, location in the sea, abundant luxury – it's no surprise that it was awarded seven stars right away. The world had never seen anything like it before.
Expectations were also exceeded in the development of the smart: because in this year Micro Compact Car AG presented no less than two prototypes: the Eco-Sprinter and the Eco-Speedster. The former was already electrically powered.
It's being there that counts!
Megacities are booming: more and more people are living together in an increasingly confined space. In the space of 20 years up to 1996 the number of megacities rose from 5 to 14: a development that made the question of new mobility solutions increasingly pressing.
The answer came in 1996 during the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. In this comparatively small city the world came together for a summer and was able to see the precursor to the smart fortwo electric drive for the first time.
Technology for Mars and man.
Unusual circumstances call for unusual measures – for example, completely new kinds of vehicles. The exploratory vehicle "Sojourner”, sent to Mars by the space probe "Pathfinder", didn't have much in common with a car. After all, it had to master completely different challenges.
Likewise, the cars presented by Micro Compact Car AG at the International Motor Show Frankfurt also had little in common with the products presented by the competition. The Eco-Sprinter and Eco-Speedster were uncompromisingly designed for the city and therefore ahead of their time. They offered solutions while others were still identifying the problems.
1998 was a perfect example of the power of innovative and bold ideas. Until then computers had looked about as exciting as the tax returns they were used for. Then along came Apple and presented the iMac: colourful, friendly, completely different to anything seen before and consistently designed for user-friendliness.
The same year the smart fortwo (then called smart city-coupé) was launched on the market: colourful, cheerful, different to anything seen before and consistently designed for user-friendliness. Two ideas that are perfect examples of what is possible when the status quo is regarded as a challenge rather than an obstacle.
Ready for take-off.
Time for new horizons: the American Steve Fossett set a new world record for a non-stop flight over a distance of 42,467 kilometres. But he was not the only one to think a step further than others in terms of mobility.
The smart fortwo electric drive celebrated its world premiere at the British International Motor Show in London. Back then it was called smart fortwo ev for "electric vehicle". With the 30 kW/41 hp electric motor and the ZEBRA high-energy battery, the smart fortwo ev achieved a range of 110 km with one battery charge and a top speed of 120 km/h. The battery was designed for at least 1000 charging cycles and ten years.
The top 100.
In addition to popular and powerful regulars, a truly unconventional thinker made it onto the 2007 Time list of the 100 most influential people: Lisa Randall, a theoretical physics scientist at Harvard University. Together with other physicists she found out that in addition to the three known dimensions in the universe there are further ones.
The 100 test drivers selected in London the same year to drive one of the very first smart electric drives as a leasing model also deserve a special place. The electric pioneers were not only exempt from the London city congestion charge, but were also among the first to experience the future of mobility for themselves. And in this way they also entered a new dimension.
The best series start of the year.
2009 was a good year for television. Lots of new series were developed, filmed and broadcast. One particular series deserves a mention. The comedy series "Modern Family" was broadcast for the first time – and not only did it win awards in consecutive years at all major award shows, the "mockumentary" format was an innovative concept for a TV series. Half series, half interview.
For smart, too, 2009 was a good year for series: As the first large-scale European car manufacturer, smart started series production of an electric vehicle at the company's Hambach plant.
What drives smart.
In 2012 there was confusion about the "Made in Germany" seal of origin. This was caused by alleged EU plans to only award the seal of quality in certain circumstances, despite the fact that the special technology of German firms in particular enjoys a very good reputation worldwide.
Instead of entering into discussions, Daimler AG simply implemented the quality mark "Made in Germany" once more: the new generation smart electric drive was powered by a highly efficient lithium-ion battery produced by the Daimler subsidiary ACCUmotive from Kamenz in Saxony – with success. smart remained the market leader among manufacturers of battery electric vehicles for three years in a row.
An innovation is seldom alone.
In 2013 Daimler caused a stir twice. With the largest car in its portfolio and with the smallest. The Mercedes-Benz S500 Intelligent Drive set a milestone with the first fully autonomous journey through town and countryside. The S-Class travelled around 100 kilometres without any driver intervention – including city traffic. The smart forjeremy showed that the combination of elegance and innovation can come in many guises. It was designed by Jeremy Scott, a glamorous fashion designer with a penchant for wings. The electrically driven show car with wings made of fibreglass once more presented the subject of electric mobility in a completely different light. The two-seater was even introduced on the market as a special model in a slightly modified version.
"I love it."
Now smart is opening a completely new chapter.
At the Paris Motor Show in the autumn of 2016, the smart fortwo, smart fortwo cabrio and smart forfour with electric drive will celebrate their world premieres. This not only makes smart the only car manufacturer to offer its whole model range electric – the smart fortwo cabrio is also the only electric cabriolet on the market. Look forward to an electric family that once again takes the lead in the future of mobility.