In July last year Smart unveiled three new concept versions of its second-generation ForTwo minicar, all based around an ultra-efficient electric drivetrain. The trio included a regular petrol-electric hybrid, a diesel-electric hybrid and a zero-emissions electric vehicle. This third concept, the all-electric ForTwo, featured a 40hp (30kW) motor powered by a sodium-nickel-chloride battery and could drive up to 71mi (115km) on a single charge.

At this year’s Detroit Auto Show, Smart displayed its next-generation prototype ForTwo electric vehicle (EV) and also confirmed that production of the vehicle would start at the end of the year. While no market launches have been announced yet, Smart confirmed that it was exploring opportunities for the United States.

The new design features a lithium-ion battery that was jointly developed with Germany’s Evonik Industries. Consuming just 12kw-hours per 100km, the average cost of running the car is around two and a half cents per mile and it takes just 5.7 seconds to accelerate from rest to a reasonable driving pace of 60km/h.

Testing of a similar vehicle has already started in Italy, and has involved the installation of hundreds of power stations at test locations, and since 2007 Smart has been conducting official tests of the electric ForTwo in the UK. The company leased 100 electric ForTwos of the former series to gain real world experience and determine the technology’s long-term sustainability.