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2011 Smart Electric Drive Passion Coupe (photos)

With a range of 65 miles and top speed of 60 mph, the electric version of Smart's ForTwo coupe has difficulty justifying itself, especially against other electric cars hitting the market.

Wayne Cunningham
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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The Smart coupe would appear to be an excellent platform for an electric car. The gasoline version weighs less than 2,000 pounds. But its small size works against it, limiting the size of the battery.

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Smart refitted the coupe with an electric drive, replacing the lower rear-mounted engine and gas tank with a 16.5 kWh lithium ion battery pack and 41 horsepower electric motor.

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The battery is on the small side for a pure electric car, giving the Smart only 65 miles range in EPA testing. Smart also limited the top speed to 60 mph, which is slow for Interstates.

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The plug-in port is on the rear right side of the car, in the same spot as the gasoline filler in the standard Smart coupe. The plug is a standard J1772 electric car configuration.

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Smart says that, when plugged into a 220-volt outlet, the batteries charge to full in under 8 hours. It can also be charged from a 110-volt source, but charging will take considerably longer.

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Besides the electric drive system, the Smart Electric Drive is identical to a standard Smart coupe. It has drum brakes in the rear and disc brakes up front. The suspension leads to a rough ride because of the short wheelbase.

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The battery pack does not impinge on the Smart's cargo space, which is unexpectedly large.

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The cabin layout is the same between both electric and gasoline Smart coupes. In both cars, the ignition lock is on the console, behind the shifter.

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The Smart Electric Drive felt like it came with a power-steering unit, as the wheel was easy to turn.

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The instrument cluster shows minimal information, just a speedometer and a spare LCD. Missing from this display is remaining range, something other electric cars emphasize.

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These two pod gauges show the battery charge state and power use. The power use gauge is important to monitor to determine driving efficiency.

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The shifter does not have a manual mode, like on the gasoline-powered car. It could be replaced by push buttons, as the drive mode is all electric.

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Similar to the standard Smart coupe, the head unit is a simple AM/FM radio that lacks even a CD player.

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14 of 14 Josh Miller/CNET
A USB port in the glovebox reads MP3s from thumb drives, and the stereo interface makes it reasonably easy to choose music.

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