• Electric fortwo to start at $25,000.
  • A Cabriolet starts at $28,000.
  • The model goes on sale this spring.

Smart will bring a fully electric version of its tiny fortwo city car to the United States early next year. The automaker recently confirmed the pending arrival of the new model, officially dubbed the smart electric fortwo, and announced a base price of $25,000--far less than plug-in rivals from Chevrolet, Ford and Nissan.

According to smart, the electric fortwo's low price is before a federal tax credit of up to $7,500, which could drive the model's effective base price as low as $17,500. A fully electric version of the soft-top smart cabriolet will also be available with a starting price of $28,000--or just $20,500 after the government's tax break for electric vehicles.

To be clear, the smart electric fortwo is not the automaker's first forray into the electric vehicle world. Instead, it's the third generation of a fully electric smart that made its debut in London in 2007. A second-generation model came out in November 2009 in several other European cities and in the United States the following year. But unlike first- and second-generation electric smart vehicles, the electric fortwo is the first smart EV that is available to buy rather than lease.

That's good news for shoppers interested in a deal on an electric vehicle, since the electric fortwo is among the least expensive EVs on the market. In fact, at a base price of $25,000, it vastly undercuts rivals like the Chevrolet Volt, which starts at $40,000 with shipping; the Nissan LEAF, which starts above $35,000; and the new Ford Focus Electric, which also starts around $40,000. The only electric vehicle with a similar base price is Mitsubishi's tiny i-MiEV, which starts around $30,000 including destination.

Some car shoppers will surely pay more for a rival to get a bigger interior or four doors--but for EV shoppers who don't need a large interior, the electric fortwo mirrors or exceeds many competitors in performance and efficiency. According to the automaker, the electric smart is capable of travelling nearly 90 miles on a single charge, which is better than EPA estimates for the LEAF at 73 miles, and the i-MiEV, which is rated for up to 62 miles of fully electric travel. The electric fortwo can also be fully charged in around seven hours using a 240-volt charging station, which is similar to other fully electric rivals.

Smart says it began taking reservations for its electric fortwo earlier this year and notes that many drivers have already signed up for one of the first models. The automaker hasn't announced exactly when the EV will go on sale, revealing only that it will make its debut this spring.

What it means to you: Smart's fully electric fortwo might just be the greenest electric vehicle available--and it's also the cheapest.

author photo

Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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