The stylish two-wheeler was first shown at the 2010 Paris Motor Show but was whisked into limbo from there, presumably to end up a no-go along with several previous ideas from the traditionally cash-burning company. Instead, the scooter has gotten the green light and the United States is a key market for it.
To rehash the features of the silent plug-in runabout, a 48-volt lithium-ion battery pack stored down low behind your feet supplies juice to a 4-kW (i.e. 5.4 horsepower) wheel-hub electric motor at the rear wheel. Top speed is listed at 45 km/h or 28 mph – a choice by Smart that allows the scooter to be driven on streets in many countries before one has a driver's license.
The scooter's plug-in socket is up front behind the smart emblem and, via a normal household connection, a full recharge takes three to five hours. The range spoken of is 100 km, or just over 60 miles.
The Smart scooter's frame is made from steel and aluminum and emulates the Smart ForTwo's tridion passenger cell in its strength properties and design. Beneath the seat, there is room for two scooter helmets, and the second seat – or 'pillion' seat – folds out and back from this single seat as needed, while the rear foot pegs emerge as part of the process. If an owner does not foresee having pillionites aboard, he or she can replace the seat with a luggage rack.
As with all Smart e-Mobility efforts, an owner benefits from complete smartphone integration. Mounting one's phone in the onboard holster between the handlebar grips, a suite of smart apps and connectivity opens up. Besides acting as speedometer and range indicator, the phone serves as a full-on navigation system, charge-point finder and, when away from the scooter, as a GPS tracking device if you've forgotten where you parked it. More apps will be revealed over time, we're sure.
With respect to safety, the Smart scooter includes an airbag, ABS stopping power, and Blind Spot Assist. Braking is controlled only by one lever on the right side of the handlebar which activates the front hydraulic disc brake. Once that occurs, the rear hub electric motor switches to generator duty and the rear brake is applied electrically. In the process, the lithium-ion pack recuperates energy. Energy regeneration also occurs via the discreet solar panels mounted at the front of the scooter. And there's also standard handlebar heating.
From what we were able to gather and calculate in our heads based on loose-lipped comments, the smart scooter will start at roughly $5,000-plus.
But why buy the cow when you can milk it, you ask? Smart indicates that its electric scooter will be an integral part of the Car2go subscription program that has been running in several European and North American cities (a number that is expected to grow to 30 cities by 2016). There's currently a Smart ForTwo Electric Drive fleet in San Diego and it has reportedly been a big success. Look for this new urban mobility lifestyle to hit several more cities in the U.S. by the scooter's 2014 on-sale (or lease) date.