On October 15, Smart will start producing a hybrid version of its tiny Smart ForTwo city car. This European-only car gets approximately 13 percent better fuel economy than the already frugal standard ForTwo.
The Smart ForTwo Micro-Hybrid, based on the 1-liter Smart ForTwo, isn't really much of a hybrid--it merely incorporates a start-stop system that shuts off the engine when it's stopped in traffic. However, this system will save gas in heavy traffic.
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Where the standard ForTwo gets about 50mpg, the Micro-Hybrid version gets an estimated 54mpg. Along with the fuel savings, the Micro-Hybrid gets a similar reduction in emissions.
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To create this start-stop system, Smart removed the starter motor and replaced the generator with a combined starter/generator.
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The engine in the Micro-Hybrid automatically shuts off when the driver is pressing the brake and the car slows to below 5mph. The system quickly restarts the engine when the driver releases the brake.
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The transmission, an automated five-speed manual, is the same in both the standard version and the Micro-Hybrid.
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Both the standard ForTwo and the Micro-Hybrid have 71 horsepower and a top speed of 90mph. The standard ForTwo is set to be sold in the U.S. early next year, but there is no word on whether the Micro-Hybrid will find its way here.