Smart USA's plan to allow customers who buy or lease the electric-powered ForTwo to lease the car's lithium ion battery is a worthy experiment. It removes another obstacle to EV acceptance by taking the heavy cost of the battery out of the vehicle purchase price. And Smart says it also minimizes anxiety that the battery will give out before the car.
In Europe, about 97 percent of buyers and lessees of the Smart EV have chosen to rent the battery since the car went on sale there last fall.
In the United States, buyers will pay $20,650 for the vehicle without the battery -- or $5,100 less than the price with the battery. The monthly battery rental is $80 and covers annual maintenance and replacement. The battery is guaranteed for up to 10 years.
Lease customers pay $199 a month, with a down payment of $2,000, with the battery rental included. The rate is low because the car's residual is expected to be higher when the battery is replaced at lease end.
Presumably, the cost to consumers who lease batteries from carmakers could be lower if battery packs hold residual value by reuse in "battery farms" to back up the electrical grid.
The slow growth of EV sales is well documented, but one by one the obstacles are being addressed. Smart's experiment should be watched closely.