Daimler AG's smart car has been setting new standards for fuel economy since its introduction in Europe in 1997 and in the U.S. in 2008. Some green-thinking drivers have realised that the smart's tiny size makes it ideal for conversion to a car that does not use any fuel at all, i.e. an electric car.
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In late 2010, smart introduced an all-electric model in the U.S. market. This car's electric motor generates 30kW and 41 horsepower from a battery located beneath the floor, so that it does not intrude on passenger or cargo space. It achieves a range of 84 miles and can be recharged from a household electric socket. Expect to pay £389 per month for 48 months to lease one.
Some electric car conversion companies sell complete, turnkey conversions. The customer brings a car to the conversion company, which then does all the work of removing the car's internal combustion engine and replacing it with an electric motor. Costs range from £16,185 for an upgrade of an owner's existing car to £26,000 for a brand-new electric smart conversion.
Home-built electric conversions can cost anywhere from £650 to £13,000, depending on sophistication. The most expensive conversions feature modern lithium-ion batteries, while the do-it-yourselfer on a tight budget could even use an electric motor pulled from an old forklift.
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