Smart will use the Mercedes A-Class' unusual chassis as a shortcut to a two-model full-electric car range inside three years, Mercedes-Benz insiders have told Leftlane. While the first electric car from Smart will come in the form of a modified ForTwo, a larger vehicle based on the Mercedes platform (and similar to the now defunct ForFour) is also in the cards.

Mercedes insists Smart will be one of the first carmakers to use breakthrough Lithium-Ion battery technology to boost its full-electric recharge range. It has had a fleet of 100 electric Smarts roaming London's streets for a year and is committed to a full-electric two-seater within the life of the current generation Smart fortwo.

"We will have a Lithium-Ion car on sale during the current life-cycle of the Smart. It will get the lithium battery in full electric in large numbers," the Director of Mercedes-Benz's Research and Development Group, Dr Thomas Weber, admitted during a technology forum in Seville, Spain, earlier this month.

"The battery is the key. Lithium-ion technology offers advantages that others haven't mastered, and we have 25 patents on it."

"But production will be a step-by-step approach for Smart. The next step should be a production run of above 1000 but below 10,000 cars, but internally we are a little bit more precise," he said.

A-Class-based electric Smarts?

Senior Mercedes management has hinted that the electric ForTwo will be followed up by a four- or five-seater, based on the A-Class.

While both generations of A-Class have had only petrol or diesel engines, both use an expensive, space-limiting sandwich floor construction, originally conceived to carry either a bolt-in fuel cell or an electric battery pack.

While the next-generation A-Class won't use this platform, future Smart models might.

"On the market today there is no better architecture for electric cars than the A- and B-class and we won't waste that," explained Weber.

"If there is a need for pure zero-emission vehicles, if the time comes for a zero-emission vehicle to be a stand-alone car then with this architecture, Smart is in much better shape for this than any of our competitors."

And, while Smart last year ceased production of its sporty coupe and Mitsubishi-built ForFour, Daimler management believes the oil-price crisis has brought the market back to a frugal, city-focused mini car range.

"I believe we are on the border of a great new definition for personal mobility," he said.

Words by Michael Taylor.