My smart electric drive is now 10 years old

Curiosity becomes enthusiasm

My father actually only wanted to drive a smart electric drive during the 2012 summer vacation. The smart center Saarbrücken in Germany got him exited about it with a great white/green smarties. The topic of cars was practically non-existent in our family. While my dad was having fun with his VW Corrado V6, it was still just a car to get from A to B. Plus a Citroen C8 for my siblings and me.

Of course my dad didn't want to buy a smart ED, but just drive one there. We've always been curious family trying out new tech things.

Mein smart electric drive ist nun 10 Jahre alt

After the test drive, he came back enthusiastically and told my mother that she had to experience it too. After that, both of them were hooked on the little car. They thought about how it could be used in everyday life and was advised by a very well-informed smart salesman. Ultimately, all fears were eliminated and they set up a leasing contract. But because you don't buy a car on vacation, it deliberately stayed there for another 2-3 weeks. But the enthusiasm still took hold. The smart electric drive with just basic equipment was leased for 2 years. "Then we tried it and can say from our own experience that it's no good."

In addition to the basic equipment, there was only the navigation system because of the hands-free system and the comfort package because of the automatic wipers. Above all, we left out the 22 kW charger because it was super expensive and we don't need it anyway. They didn't even pick the glove box. And the smart is red/silver because red is a great color and the combination wouldn't have cost any extra either. Otherwise it would have turned red/black. Of course with battery rental, because the batteries die all the time and with the rental you are on the safe side. You always hear that, even back then.

In the first winter we didn't even have winter tires because we preferred to leave the smart in the garage on snowy days. It only costs money and at the end of the leasing they are left over.

200.000km mit dem smart electric drive

The motivation to buy the smart came ultimately by a statement from Ralf Wagner (elweb), which my dad still had in his ear. Ralf is a veteran of electromobility and had already financed his studies at the end of the 80s by repairing City EL. At some point he must have told my dad that these electronic handcrafted car companies can build super electric drive trains, nothing ever breaks. But when someone comes to the workshop with their City EL, it rains somewhere in to it or the heating doesn't work or the steering jams or the chassis causes problems.... because these manufacturers simply had no experience with standard car construction. They were only focused on the electric powertrain.

But smart has been building cars for over 15 years at this time. They should have all this standard stuff under control after around 1.5 million cars. And the electric power train isn't a problem. So what else speaks against the smart electric drive? Exactly. Nothing.

By the way, Tesla fought the same with the Roadster and the early Model S. And other electric car startups usually fail because of the standard car construction, not the electric power train as well.

From second car to first car

The smart electric drive was actually intended as a vehicle for my mother to drive to and from work. It is charged at home at the wall socket, which by the way is not a good idea. My mother wasn't really convinced of this idea at first. But quickly learned to love the smart for pre-air conditioning in winter. Besides, it was just a lot of fun. You can't tell by looking at it that it's electric. And it just accelerates like crazy for a smart car.

It didn't take long before my parents kept asking "Will you take it today or can I have it?". Nobody wanted to drive the combustion engine car anymore. Even if it was now the first generation of the Citroen DS3, actually a nice car. But the engine was now unfortunately the wrong one. This also led to the purchase of a Renault Zoe in 2015, which meant that the last combustion engine was eliminated from the family. If Mercedes hadn't done simply nothing back then, it would have been the original B250e. Which I test drove at the end of 2016 and was very disappointed with it.

So it happened that the smart quickly accumulated kilometers and left the leasing limit long behind. Because we had grown fond of it, it was fun and we didn't want to give it away anyway, we bought it out of the lease.

My first own car

I've always enjoyed technology, but cars weren't particularly relevant to me either. But after it was clear that the smart would not come until 2013, I was already calculating that the 2-year leasing would still run until I got my driver's license. At least accompanied driving from the age of 17. And the quiet and fast smart definitly was coolnitive, even if it takes a certain amount of self-confidence for such a small car. Luckily I don't lack that.

But in 2013 I hadn't dreamed that I would then buy it from my parents when I was in job training and that it would be mine. But it was definitely super cool. At the beginning of the job school, they still smiled about this little smart EV. But it didn't take them long until I heard the first time them warning others "Don't mess with that. It's only 75 hp, but it's electric hp".

In Germany we've got licence plates which end with an "E". Something reserved for EVs and hybrids. I told my friends at the time that as soon as the E-plate was on it, it was my own car. Of course, we got the smart delivered without that, because that didn't exist back in 2013. It was a relaxed way of having your own car without everyone having to say it straight away. Most of them still had "his parents' car" in their heads and fortunately didn't realise how expensive it was. It was just a smart car.

But the E-plate should catch up with me later. If you don't park somewhere in the parking lot as the maintenance man would have liked, the license plate number will of course be called out. I would have stayed seated in class, as it would have been announced. I don't care, nobody knows what my number is. But when he read the "E" at the very end, a whole class turned and looked at me. So then I moved the little car from the perfectly small "smart parking lot" to a regular car parking lot.

Of course, there is a story for every rule: Why it is forbidden to charge electric cars at the socket at the job school in Pforzheim is entirely my fault. I had almost no range left and because of the 3.7 kW charger I would have had to charge it somewhere for an hour when I got home. But I was at the job school long enough. So why not charge there?

A teacher gave me access to a room with a window overlooking the parking lot and I was able to charge with a cable cable trough the window. Sometime later, when I was in such a situation again, I learned that this action went through the teachers room. Then nobody was it who let me do that and the specialist teacher for electronics and mechanical engineering had forbidden it. But not because of the few kilowatt hours, but because he was very afraid of fire and anything with his alleged expertise.

Mein smart electric drive ist nun 10 Jahre alt

The most exciting thing is, of course, that this niche vehicle should ultimately become the savior for the smart brand. If smart had not been interested in electromobility from the start, this 3rd generation smart electric drive would not have become the brand's first over-the-counter electric car. And with it, the progress would have been missing, which would have kept the brand alive in the days of the 4th generation and then, as the first classic manufacturer, would have allowed it to switch to a fully electric car manufacturer.

Without that, Ola Källenius presumably would have simply closed smart sometime between 2018 and 2020.

With 3.7 kW from Stuttgart to Berlin to Formula E

The early Formula E in particular had really excited me. Until Corona I was in Berlin for every race. And when the time came again in 2017, the vehicle of choice was very clear: my smart electric drive. Even if you could have chosen significantly better electric cars for the almost 700 km (one way) back then. For example, I could have taken our Zoe with its 22 kW charger. But the Zoe is a spirited French woman and I've never really liked her.

It's also much cooler with your own smart anyway. ^^

You just have to leave on time. About 200 km done every day, 100 km of which thanks to a full battery from the hotel and recharging the remaining 100 km on the way. Some still remember this iconic picture with the folding chair. So a friend and I sat in the bright sun at the rest stops at the charging station and waited a total of 5 hours a day.

I had told him what a crazy idea that is. But I think he really understood it only on the first evening.

200.000km mit dem smart electric drive

On the way, we also met a bewildered Mercedes employee, who recognized the smart ED as an electric car and couldn't understand how it was able to get there on its own until just before Berlin. It was hard for them to understand that this is possible. Although even in 2017 it was anything but rocket science. Arrived in Berlin, of course, a few proof photos had to be taken and after the race we went straight back.

Mein smart electric drive ist nun 10 Jahre alt

As much as I appreciate the smart electric drive, the 3.7 kW charger held me back regularly and I occasionally had to use the Zoe. Which is why a smart EQ with a 22 kW charger came in 2018 and the smart became my brother’s vehicle. Even tho I still look after it today and take care of anything related to it. And I still drive it regularly anyway.

The smart electric drive as a construction vehicle

In the meantime, the vehicle that gets the most mileage from us was the smart electric drive, which my dad also uses a lot as a construction site vehicle. In principle, all motorway construction sites around Karlsruhe were his catchment area. At least when it came to concrete pavements. Load on the construction container using NRGkick and then actively on the entire construction site.

200.000km mit dem smart electric drive

A couple of my dad's projects were the grinded concrete test tracks on the A5, south of Karlsruhe. But also north, just before Bruchsal to the current bridge under construction. There, the concrete was grinded lengthwise to provide more grip and a significantly quieter roll. That was the idea.

With its quiet electric motor, the smart was of course great for listening to the result while driving. Incidentally, these test pieces have meanwhile proved that grinded concrete is very quiet and that the grip is good. Above all, however, that this grinds also lasts for years.

200.000km mit dem smart electric drive

By the way, if you charge with the 3.7 kW charger directly at the transformer house and therefore the mains voltage goes above AC 250 V, then the little one even manages a breathtaking 4 kW charge. Of course, we were particularly enthusiastic about that, because we would have liked to have had the missing 22 kW charger by now. Retrofitting would have been super expensive with new parts and from the dealer. Replacing the car with one with 22 kW was not an option either, we had grown very fond of it.

Retrofit 22 kW charger and other repairs

In 2021 the time had finally come. I retrofitted the 22 kW charger in the old smart electric drive. The upgrade was quite a lot of work, but thanks to my ever expanding network it was finally possible. I have already reported in detail on how exactly this was done in a separate article.

Of course, it still didn't make financial sense. But it also didn't have to. Someone once said that you either fall in love with your first car or you fall in love in your first car.

smart 451 von 3,7 kW auf 22 kW aufrüsten

With the "fast charger" it has everything we ever wanted. I had retrofitted the original cruise control a few years earlier and it also has the tuning to 60 kW and BRABUS mode. Now the smart is perfect. It was also nice to see that there is of course a little rust here and there. But everything is still very good and will hopefully still experience the historic license plate (30 years). In any case, we will never give him out of the family.

It is also nice to see over the 10 years that the smart has been in the workshop significantly less than the Zoe with half the mileage. While she always has some quirks, the smart is a faithful companion. Has meanwhile got new brake discs and pads all around. The old ones rusted after 8 years. And with its 275,000 km it also has a new battery in the meantime. After 2,350 cycles (235,000 km) the battery reached a remaining capacity of < 80% and was replaced free of charge due to the battery rental.

We could certainly replaced a few cells instead, I know the battery itself very well in the meantime. But if you get the battery replaced for free, you don't say no to that. In general, the smart electric drive (ED3) is a very robust vehicle that is easy to repair. I've gone into more detail on this in this separate article.

Now, after 10 years, we bought the battery out of his lease for €300. There is also a separate article on this topic.

Schematische Überischt EN

The family favourite

Now it is 10 years old. It is really impressive what has happened in electromobility over the years. We never thought that this car would turn the family into electric car fans. Or that I will start working as a project manager for charging infrastructure after my job training and studying. Nobody saw coming in 2012 that this car would ultimately spark such enthusiasm that I founded smart EMOTION. Or that electric mobility would become the next big thing.

A lot has changed over time and I'm curious where we will be in 10 years. In any case, the old smart electric drive will stay with us and with it the motto that has always applied:

Electric, because it's fun.

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