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Geneva show: Smart Forspeed EV a pipe dream

Nice headgear: Tall drivers would find Robocop-style headgear a necessity when driving Smart's EV concept.

Zero-emissions Smart Forspeed roadster concept won’t make it into showrooms

24 Feb 2011

CITY car specialist Smart has announced that it will whip the covers of an all-electric two-seat roadster concept – dubbed ‘Forspeed’ – at next month’s Geneva show.

While head of Smart Dr. Annette Winkler has been quoted as saying that unlike its limited-edition Crossblade forebear the Forspeed will never make production, the concept is clearly a “look forward at the next generation” of Smart vehicles.

The zero-emissions Forspeed has a claimed battery range of 135km with its 30kW motor with additional 5kW ‘overboost’ providing brisk acceleration from 0-60km/h in 5.5 seconds on the way to a 120km/h maximum.

That said, driving at anything other than city speeds might be ill-advised as the ironically-named Forspeed has just a low-rise wind-deflector in lieu of a windscreen, making driving goggles a necessity for taller drivers.

In fact one of the press shots shows the driver sporting a Robocop style helmet.

Daimler-owned Smart says the concept proves its credentials as a pioneer in electric propulsion, backed up by the fact that following a trial of 100 British-engineered electric prototypes in 2007, the company has sold 1500 Smart ForTwo EVs in 18 countries since late 2009.

37 center imageAs The specification of the Forspeed’s electric drivetrain closely follows that of the production ForTwo EV and the company claims its 16.5kWh lithium-ion battery can be charged using a conventional 220-volt socket, with an 80 per cent charge possible within 45 minutes.

GoAuto reported last September, Smart exhibited an all-electric E-scooter at the Paris show, capable of a 100km battery range and a 45km/h top speed. It featured safety innovations such as an airbag, blind-spot assist and LED footboard lighting. Like the Forspeed, the dashboard integrated an iPhone.

The Forspeed’s smooth and almost seamless glass-fibre body has a cute and cuddly-looking front-end design with blue-tinged LED headlights that resemble eyelashes. However this is offset by a more purposeful stance when viewed from the rear.

The tail lights, while continuing the eyelash-esque theme, look like afterburners, help the sporting theme projected by the bulging rear wheelarches and Audi R8-style flash of contrasting colour behind the rear doors. 18-inch wheels, huge for such a small car, complete the look.

Seemingly in contrast with the pristine, ultra-modern looking white, green and silver interior is an old-fashioned-looking brown leather strap detail on the gearlever, a theme continued by a similar material forming the interior door handles and securing the lid of a centrally-mounted drinks bottle.

The outer rim of the steering wheel pearlescent white steering wheel also has the brown leather treatment, giving the appearance of a leather tyre.

The symmetrical dashboard’s twin cowled instrument binnacles house the traditional speed, trip computer and gear selection readouts in front of the driver, while the passenger seat faces an iPhone dock for integration with the a ‘smart drive’ application that provides hands-free calling, navigation and a ‘car finder’ feature designed to guide the driver back to their parked car.

Like BMW’s Vision ConnectedDrive concept, the Forspeed promotes the passenger to co-driver, taking charge of communication and navigation. For solo driving, the iPhone dock can be rotated 90 degrees toward the driver.

Smart says that despite its open-to-the-elements nature, the Forspeed is suitable for all-weather driving thanks to drainage channels in the floor and seats plus a waterproof coating on all surfaces.

Smart remains something of a fringe-dweller in the Australian market, with just 287 examples sold last year, down a quarter on 2009’s figure of 382. Worse, it sold just seven cars in January against 27 the previous year – a decline of 74.1 per cent.

Sales should receive a boost with the arrival of the facelifted ForTwo, ahead of an all-new Smart range – built on a platform shared with Renault – in 2013.

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