41 degrees. In the shade. Wide landscape. Lonely streets. Searing sun high overhead. All that is missing is the tumble weed that blows across the street. I stand sweating next to the latest high-tech compact from smart. Four-door, two-door? Regardless, the latest smart will soon be available with an electric drive. For my-auto-blog I was in Phoenix, Arizona, to experience the last few kilometers of the heat test. A look behind the scenes of the future.
Hot thing: The new smart electric drive in heat testing
The business card of Andreas Söns is in three lines. He is (among others) the Head of Vehicle Testing for Hybrid and Electric Vehicles. He sent three men from his team to the desert. To test. And he brings us closer, why you say goodbye with a car in the desert. Dust, sun and heat. Much more can not be found here in Arizona in the summer. The locals avoid the streets at noon, sitting in restaurants or malls cooled down by shock freezing. The smart engineers meanwhile send the smart "ED" prototypes into the heat test.
Death Valley is also on the program - the hottest place on earth that you can choose in summer. However, I meet Andreas and his men in a huge test area. And the new smart ED. In the middle of nowhere, only torture routes for cars of the future. A good hour by car from Phoenix. It is a lonely country road that leads onto this 30 square kilometer test site. Protected from the eyes of the Erlkönig hunters and the public, the smart technicians carried out the final phase of testing here.
Is the range enough - is the cooling sufficient?
Even if the range is still the alpha and omega for the breakthrough of electromobility and the big ones Manufacturers with announcements of limousines that will soon cover 400 and more kilometers Electric driving, currently overturning, a smart, designed by birthright for the city, can also be considered sensible with "less than 400 kilometers". But what he is not allowed to do is let the driver down. Not even at 50 ° outside temperature and more. Once again, heat is a very special requirement for electric cars. Electric motors do not convert 60% of fuel into waste heat, as their colleagues in combustion engines do, but the power electronics, batteries and control units do get quite warm. And the batteries in particular need cooling when there is a strong demand for power. The cooling system - like the heating system - shares the drive with the occupants. Which leads to the question: who has priority?
What happens if you drive your e-car with 40 ° and more with verve verve on the slopes?
What is under the dress of smart electric drive hardware? One does not want to give it away yet, but a look at the measuring technology installed in the vehicle reveals that it is guaranteed to be no less than its predecessor. 55 kW made the third generation smart ED, 60 kW should be in the fourth generation. While most recently, Accumotive's 17.6 kWh battery pact was used, growth should be manageable. The battery will also come in the future again from the German company Accumotive. More range, more driving fun for the youngest generation. Andreas promises me. And shorter loading times.
The youngest generation had already weaned the nod of the head for the presentation. Now - with the electric drive - the smart drives as it should have always done. Sensitive, dynamic, without annoying the driver with traction interruption. Andreas Söns drives our test car towards a dirt track. Big pebbles, little pebbles. Gravel. A street that you want to avoid later as a customer. Here, under the relentless Arizona sun, the electric smart has to go through it. The test cars were tortured on this course for days. The protection of the battery systems and the drive was put to the test. The test vehicles are silent witnesses of the agony. Everything on behalf of the future customers. And always in the heat of Arizona. Under that merciless sun. The air conditioning in constant stress.
But the electric motor is very sensitive to this agony. The head of hybrid and electric development boldly lets the rear of the smart forfour hang out of track. Poor fun? An electric car in the small car class? Definitely not. You don't feel the slight increase in weight. The electric motor hums itself through its world too happily and convincingly. Torque from zero speed. No delay due to boost pressure build-up or the wrong gear. Even the - still suspected - 60 kW of the electric motor are more than sufficient to experience driving pleasure.
The smart technicians have covered thousands of kilometers on these slopes in recent weeks. Is the climate performance sufficient? Do the batteries and electric drive remain in power, or does the high temperatures require power to be reduced to protect the technology? It is a balancing act and a balancing act at the same time. Much brain lard is used on this final tuning of the components and control systems. We know that the smart is a cooperation product. Since you have to compromise. Only the customer should not notice. Not the smart customer. The hall, which belongs to the test area, is used by the entire Mercedes-Benz Group for test drives. Numerous empty pizza boxes and countless coffee cups in the garbage cans tell the story of working days that start long before sunrise and at sunset are not over.
Being a test driver is not a glamor job. But you can see the guys around the boss Andreas, how much fun and desire they put into this vote and the test days in Arizona.
The air conditioning of the smart city car blows the cold air into the interior with a lot of vigor and pressure. Maximum performance for air conditioning. But battery and occupants, both feel good. In the meantime, Andreas has driven our smart forfour up a hill. Starting on the mountain. Something that the bits and bytes in the engine control unit have to work hard on. The driver's driving experience should be emotional, smooth and yet powerful. Dozens of times. The smarts have to prove themselves over and over again.
Connected to the home via WLAN
The feedback from the test drivers is one thing. The collected data from the ECUs of the smart ED the other. Everything is collected. The data travel via WLAN directly towards home. So first on a server in the hall in Arizona and from there, via the Internet, directly to the server in Sindelfingen. While the test riders in Arizona are still sweating, you can control the data at home.
For two days I accompanied the future electric smart in Arizona. It has shown itself to be well air-conditioned, despite the unfriendly heat and unreal landscapes. How mature the smart has become becomes clear when I get into a typical pick-up truck to take photos. Full size, as expected. The smart could be parked on the loading area. While the asphalt is dividing more and more and we end up moving on a sandy mogul slope, the little smart demonstrates the status of its evolutionary history. After the work is done, I get back to the test driver in the smart ED. Because the "little one", even in this world, is simply more convincing. Comfortable. He cushions softer. And the Elektro Smart is quieter anyway! I don't even want to talk about the emissions that are not generated.
In November we are officially allowed to drive ourselves to the wheel of the electric dwarf. We will see if the little one is then the "big" breakthrough in the field of electric city mobiles.