Smart USA is launching a 250-strong test fleet of electric cars in select U.S. cities this year, as part of a broader push to boost the brand’s cache among the urban set.
Smart USA, which distributes cars made by Daimler AG, will lease the cars in Portland, Oregon; San Jose, California; Orlando, Florida; Indianapolis and along the Washington D.C. to Massachusetts corridor of Interstate-95.
The 95-per cent recyclable car is outfitted with a 16.5 kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery from Tesla Motors Inc.
“The brand’s core is about sustainability,” Jill Lajdziak, president of Smart USA, said in an interview in New York. “The goal is to be highly successful, obviously in urban markets.”
Sales of Smart’s electric car to the general public will begin in early 2012, first in countries in Europe and soon after in the United States, Derek Kaufman, vice-president of Smart USA said.
The company has already placed 100 electric cars in London and the vehicles will arrive in the United States in October. Smart USA will lease 80 per cent of the Smart fortwo car to companies, while 20 per cent will be offered to individuals, company officials said during a media briefing on Wednesday.
The cars would be leased for four years at US$599 a month, after a US$2,500 payment at signing. The car will be under warranty during the full four-year period.
Smart USA, a unit of dealer-operator Penske Automotive Group Inc, hopes to follow the performance of these cars over the time of the lease, with the owners’ permission, Kaufman said. The company will track data on driving habits and see how the vehicles handle certain speeds and weather conditions in real time.
Currently the company expects an owner of the electric car will charge roughly one to two times per week for typical work commutes. The car can drive about 83 miles before it needs to be recharged, Kaufman said during a presentation.