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Electric Smart - Globe

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Toronto man gets first electric drive Smart MICHAEL BETTENCOURTGlobe and Mail Update The first modern electric vehicle from a mainstream auto maker went to the first Canadian EV driver Monday. In a pilot project with Toronto Hydro, Bill Tharp received keys to a fully electric Smart fortwo Electric Drive, which will be leased to him for four years at a cost of $545 a month. That’s high for a fortwo, but not this fortwo. That price includes a significant amount of aid by Toronto Hydro, which will cover the cost of installing a 240-volt charger in Tharp’s garage, upgraded wiring to install the 240V outlet – the same kind of plug used for dryers and electric stoves – as well as all the electricity that Tharp will use to power the little two-seat electric runabout over four years of downtown commuting. At least 15 and possibly 17 Smart fortwo EVs will be available to consumers under the program, program organizers suggested. Mercedes-Benz Canada and Toronto Hydro are looking to fill the other spots soon; interested consumers can sign up at smartexperience.ca. In Europe, a similar Smart EV lease program costs consumers €700 a month (about $936). The Canadian Smart lease price is also much less expensive than the $850 (U.S.) that Mini charged for its U.S.-only test of the two-seat Mini E, although that was over a one-year lease, not four. In return for the garage upgrades, and subsidized cost of the car itself, Smart Experience participants are expected to provide feedback to the companies on their experiences with the car. But most of the information the companies are looking for will come automatically from the car, as the Smart EV is equipped with a telematics system that monitors and can transmit various self-diagnostic tests. Or the info could come from the charger, which Toronto Hydro will monitor to test how the grid responds at different charging times, patterns and, most importantly, during periods of peak electricity draws. With a range of about 135 km, and a top speed now electronically limited to 100 km/h, the Smart EV could be recharged from a 20 per cent level in about four hours, said Mercedes-Benz Canada president Marcus Breitschwerdt, who helped present the keys to Tharp along with Anthony Haines, CEO of Toronto Hydro, and Toronto Hydro Chairman Clare Copeland. The quick charge time is thanks to its relatively small 16 kW/h battery, or about eight hours from a completely drained state. This would be on the 240V charger, though a regular 110V outlet (120V technically) could also be used, but would take about double the time. “Eighty per cent of our electricity is non-carbon-emitting,” said Haines at the program kick-off, with nuclear and hydro-electric power making up the majority of Toronto Hydro, and Ontario’s, power. “But at night, it’s 100 per cent, so anyone charging it at night can truly boast they’re driving a zero-emissions vehicle.” Haines said a “fill-up” at its most expensive point would cost about $1.98, but would be cheaper overnight. “So with a range of about 135 km (on a full charge), that’s about a quarter of the cost of gasoline,” he said. As a low-volume pilot project, the program is arguably not the landmark turning point that the first modern production electric car will be when it goes on sale to the Canadian public in 2011 (not counting the six-figure Tesla Roadster that arrived in 2009.) But with Nissan’s all-electric Leaf or Chevrolet’s primarily electric Volt set to arrive in a few Canadian cities within the next nine months, Mercedes-Benz can claim a legitimate stake at the forefront of this electric wave, as the first to get a mainstream EV into a happy buyer’s hands in this country. And no, Tharp or other program guinea pigs don’t get free electricity for their entire house for four years, just for the Smart EV’s charging station.

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When are we going to get real-world user impressions and data rather than the PR fluff that is out right now? For example: how far can one go on a charge when it's minus 5 and snowing, etc....

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Sheraton hotels unveil electric car chargers

MICHAEL BETTENCOURT

Globe and Mail Update

Published on Wednesday, Dec. 08, 2010

Sheraton hotels in Toronto and Montreal will provide public electric vehicle charging stations, the hotel chain announced this week.

The two chargers at each hotel are equipped with connectors for electric cars such as the Smart, as well as buses, Segway scooters and electric bikes. The ChargePoint units are networked and GPS enabled, allowing EV drivers to automatically find them on their navi systems, or from their iPhone or Blackberry.

Last week, a Smart fortwo Electric Drive was presented to a Toronto resident as part of a pilot project between Toronto Hydro and Mercedes-Benz Canada that offers 17 consumers a four-year lease of the tiny and silent two-seater.

The electric Smart’s $545-a-month lease price factors in an Ontario rebate of $8,231, even though the only vehicle that currently shows up on the provincial government’s official list of eligible vehicles is the electric Tesla Roadster sports car. This rebate is just shy of the $8,500 maximum rebate the province offers under its EV incentive program. That max figure is for vehicles with 17 kW batteries or larger, such as the Nissan Leaf. But the battery in the Smart is almost exactly the same size as the battery in the upcoming plug-in Chevrolet Volt, whose buyers are set to receive the same rebate.

Yet even with that rebate and the cost of four years of electric “fuel” included in the fortwo EV’s all-in lease price, that’s still an expensive Smart, said Paul Timoteo, president of Canadian pricing site CarCostCanada.com and co-founder of Leasebusters.com.

“Considering you can lease a Smart for under $300 a month, from a pure dollars and cents comparison, the normal gas model will still come out cheaper,” he calculated, at a total cost of about $450 a month over four years for a lease of the regular gas Smart fortwo, if you include fuel and assume 25,000 km of driving a year.

“But of course they need to sell a few thousand (EVs) first in order to improve upon the concept and eventually lower the price to make it more attractive.”

Timoteo argues that pure battery EVs will have a tough time competing with the likes of the Chevrolet Volt and upcoming Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid, as well as current alternative fuel vehicles such as modern diesels. Then again, he just leased a 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Highline for four years, and he says the numbers after paying for diesel fuel for 25,000 km of driving in his Jetta line up almost exactly with the cost of the heavily subsidized Smart.

“Which would you rather drive?” he asks rhetorically, citing the Smart’s maximum 135 km range and 100 km/h top speed. “It’s not a tough decision.”

However, these rough calculations were done without factoring in the Smart EV’s free maintenance over those four years, the unlimited number of allowable kilometres a year, or the set of winter tires that come with the car. Plus there are some time-saving perks like gaining legal access to HOV lanes when driving alone that come with the province’s new green-lettered licence plate.

Timoteo’s pessimism on EVs is understandable, and perhaps widely shared, but his calculations, like most cost comparisons, are based on fuel prices remaining stable the entire four years. Good luck finding anyone who expects that to happen.

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Source.

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So, Sheraton hotels will offer charging for the EV's?Is it just me, or is this parking spot going to remain empty all the time? I'm sure they've studied the demographics, but how often are guests going to be rolling in an EV? You can't really drive any distance, say Montreal to Toronto, and it takes hours to recharge fully, so you better bring your 'jammies".I guess any publicity is good publicity.I also like the bit about how customer feedback will be an important part of the leasing "experience". How refreshing, after all these years.

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