How Do Smart Cars Work?

by Gina Ponce

Function

The Smart (Swatch Mercedes Art) car was originally designed as an economic solution to fuel efficiency and pollution, while at the same time providing a practical resolution to parking problems everywhere. Depending on the model, the two-passenger compact car is approximately eight to nine feet long, five feet tall and five feet wide. Smart cars are designed to be able to park perpendicular in a parallel parking space, allowing room for two Smart cars in one normal sized spot or driveway. Gas mileage also depends on the style and engine horsepower of the car, but typically gets 46 miles per gallon with city driving and 69 miles per gallon with highway driving. The plastic bodies of the Smart car were also made to be recyclable.

Features

The lightweight (1600 pounds) Smart car contains a three-cylinder engine and can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in a matter of seconds; however, due to safety precautions it is designed with an electronic speed limit that peaks at 84 miles per hour. The frame of the car is built with the distinctive steel tridion safety cell, which will trigger the energy absorbing areas (known as crumple zones) on another car if there is an accident. Airbags are available for the driver and passenger and both seats are made from steel frames, top to bottom, taking any energy caused by impact. The Smart car has aluminum doors that are easy to open after a crash and the wheels are made to be a crumple zone. Front and rear crash boxes protect the body frame of the car fully up to a 15 mile per hour collision. Hill-start assist, electronic brake assist, sandwich constriction and stability control features are all added components to the Smart car's safety traits. Exchangeable body panels are a unique characteristic to the Smart car. Not only are they recyclable, but they are also replaceable, allowing an owner to change the color of his car however frequently he chooses. The cars are powder coated instead of painted, which uses 40 percent less energy, furthering the mission to be environmentally friendly.

Potential

The original function of the Smart car was to keep it efficient for the economy, and that will continue when limited edition electric and rechargeable models are released in Europe. The electric Smart will run on lithium-ion batteries, which will last for up to 20 miles. The engine in the battery-powered vehicle will be a combination of a three cylinder turbo charged diesel engine, two permanent-magnet electric motors, 68 horsepower and 1.5 liter. They are projected to be released in high quantities in the United States in 2012.

About the Author

Gina Ponce is currently an associate editor at a NY-based lifestyle magazine. She graduated from California State University Long Beach with a Bachelor of Arts degree in print journalism and went on to internships in Washington D.C. and Australia.