In a ceremony that happened just before another snowstorm in Washington, D.C., Smart USA delivered its first electric drive smart ForTwo in the U.S.–the smart ED – joining what is quickly becoming a crowded arena. If there was any question that electric cars are a mainstream reality, it seems that every week brings more proof of how serious the industry is about them.
The first Smart ED was delivered to Mindy Kimball, a 36-year-old Major in the United States Army and self-professed early adopter of electric cars. Through her local utility, Kimball pays for a plan that guarantees her electricity will be accounted for with 100% wind power, and since 2007 she has been a volunteer with The Climate Project–educating people about the science behind climate change. Clearly Kimball is no stranger to all things green.
"We're having a crazy day because it's snowing, but we're also having crazy fun because we've just delivered our first electric car," said Jill Lajdziak, president of smart USA in an interview with AutoTrader. Lajdziak was on hand with Roger Penske to conduct the official delivery ceremony (Smart USA is a subsidiary of the Penske Automotive Group).
Initially the Smart ED will be available to customers in the U.S. as part of a $599 per month lease deal, and only 250 of them will be leased to individuals, businesses, municipalities and other organizations as part of a test program through 2012. In 2012 Lajdziak says that smart USA will make its next generation smart ED available through the regular retail purchase process. According to Lajdziak, this next generation vehicle will incorporate more advanced technology.
"The first leases are for four years," said Lajdziak, "however we want to make sure we take care of all of our early adopters and anybody that has a desire to charge on up – if you will – when the new technology comes in, will be transitioned seamlessly to the new cars." So, if you're an early Smart ED adopter, you'll essentially get a brand new vehicle with the latest technology, no questions asked, after two years.
With the delivery, Kimball became the first member of Smart's "Team 250" – what Smart USA describes as an elite group of the first 250 Smart ED owners. Those owners will have a direct line to Smart personnel and receive special concierge services. Team 250 will also be provided with 24/7 roadside assistance and have access to events dedicated to them.
Although the first Smart ED's are comparatively expensive to other electric car offerings, the company is clearly banking on the fact that electric car supply will be outstripped by demand through 2012. Yet Lajdziak sounded confident that their offering is the most compelling of all the consumer-oriented electric cars on the road right now – including the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt – saying that when the smart's size and functionality is packaged with an electric drive "you have the whole package."
With such limited initial availability you might think that there was no more space available to be part of Team 250, but Lajdziak indicated that there were still openings. "We didn't want to have them all leased immediately, we wanted to keep some in reserve and as people come in to test vehicles at the dealers, we wanted them to have the opportunity to be part of the initial group," she said.
All of the first 250 Smart EDs are scheduled to be delivered in the next five months, so if you haven't already ordered your Nissan Leaf and want an electric car before the end of 2011, this may be your chance. The Smart ED is even available as a cabriolet – making it the first consumer-oriented electric convertible.