- - Thursday, May 5, 2011

Twenty smart fortwo electric drive cars, unveiled today by the Automobile Club of Southern California and smart USA, will be part of a research project by the Auto Club to test the utility and benefits of electric cars in a variety of light duty roadside, insurance and consumer activities. The 20 vehicles are among an overall fleet of 250 smart fortwo electric drive vehicles that will be distributed by smart USA nationwide during 2011.

“More and more motorists will be driving alternative fuel vehicles in the coming years, including electric vehicles, and the Auto Club is preparing to serve cars of the future by testing these 20 smart fortwo EVs,” said Thomas McKernan, Auto Club CEO. “We’re going to be exploring and reporting the benefits and challenges of driving electric cars, seeing whether they are suitable for day trips, and how they work as commuter cars. It will also assist us in establishing roadside services that meet the needs of alternative-fuel and electric vehicles.”

“The smart fortwo electric drive fits perfectly in the urban landscape of southern California as the purest statement on conservation and transportation electrification,” said Jill Lajdziak, president of smart USA. “We are thrilled the Auto Club is showing commitment to smart’s electric technology and demonstrating the benefits of the smart fortwo to its members. The Auto Club’s fleet is currently the nation’s largest private fleet of smart fortwo electric drive vehicles.”

The smart fortwo EVs will be used by the Auto Club’s roadside assistance, automotive services and insurance claims fleets, the Automotive Research Center, and publications and public affairs groups. Drivers will provide feedback through the program regarding their day-to-day experiences. In addition, editors from Westways, the Auto Club’s travel and lifestyle member magazine, will use a smart fortwo EV for day trips. Results will be reported to the Club’s six million Southern California members through the magazine.

This year, smart USA is leasing 250 vehicles to early adopters of electric drive technology who are helping to define new alternatives in transportation for the United States and interested in making a passionate statement on conservation and environmental awareness. Vehicle placement is nationwide, marking a natural evolution of the smart brand and the next logical extension of the fortwo platform which continues to be a trendsetter in urban mobility and efficiency. Series production, with next generation technology, begins in 2012.

“Throughout the Auto Club’s history, we have taken steps to understand alternate fuel vehicles and prepare for what consumers might purchase,” added McKernan. “As far back as the 1970s, the Auto Club had a fleet of Ford Rancheros and Chevy El Caminos that were powered by Liquefied Petroleum Gas. The Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center has tested alternate fuel and hybrid vehicles as they have been introduced to the market, and produces a Green Car Guide for car buyers.”

Also, as part of its ongoing efforts to promote and learn more about alternative fuels, the Auto Club is sponsoring a hydrogen vehicle fueling station at Cal State LA which will open this spring.

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