1/8/11

Connect by Hertz' Smart ED

Hertz Electric Smart
Last Tuesday, I rented a Smart ED from Connect's 50th street location in Manhattan. I drove the car Westchester County Airport for a Civil Air Patrol meeting. The total distance of the journey was 63 miles, and I started with the battery gauge on 100% but returned it with what you can see in the picture--maybe 1% on the gauge (a representative called me in a panic when it got below about 3%, but everything was okay since I was so close to home). I used the heater on the return journey, because it was freezing, and I there were a few times when I used the full 30kW power to keep up with traffic.

Using the full 30kW
My overwhelming impression of the car is that it is really slow at highway speeds, not unusably slow, but probably the slowest car in the entire Hertz fleet. It struggles to go 58 up hills, and is harshly limited at 65mph. When the car runs into the red zone, it becomes even slower.

Because the car is "throttle by wire", there is no direct connection between the pedal and the motor. The computer decides what is best for you, and accelerates in a very soft way even if you floor it, using a maximum of 20kW. But if you push past a final "click" in the accelerator pedal, it realizes you want to go quickly, and gives you the full 30kW on the gauge, and you make a little more progress. When you are in the red zone, the car goes into limp mode and will use only 15kW even if you push past the "click" in the pedal.

Electric Smart CarReturned it with 1% charge
It wasn't so quiet as I expected at highway speeds; there is a fair amount of whine from the electric motor, and of course wind noise and tire roar. When crawling around, however, it is ghostly.

When I picked the car up, the lot attendant ran after me and said I needed to come in the little room to get my ticket, and then sheepishly realized that it was a Connect car. Someone else then ran after me to get a copy of my driving license. The car was dirty (understandable considering the recent snowstorm) and had a broken center armrest on one of the two seatbacks, but otherwise the experience was excellent. I really enjoyed driving such a great distance on battery power.

As for range anxiety, I get a thrill from it. I enjoy running my cars right down to empty. If you think of the smart EV as a car with a 3 gallon gas tank, then I think that might really bother some people. But you do have options--in a traffic jam, no energy is used. You can use the parking brake when you're stopped so the rear brake lights don't spill energy, and of course, you can charge it at your destination. Had I charged the car for the 2 hours I was at my Civil Air Patrol meeting, I would easily have been able to make it back with a 25% charge. I guess the best thing to tell people is that the battery gauge is pretty linear, it doesn't suddenly fall quickly once it gets past 20%. Also, I imagine they calibrated the gauge so there is some reserve below zero, although I didn't get to find out.


I am excited that Hertz is renting these electric cars. I find electric cars and their quirks fascinating, and this is my only opportunity to experience them.

1 comment:

Muneer Ahmed said...

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