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Smart Forvision: a 4-wheeled laboratory

A pioneer in the field of ultra urban vehicles, Daimler is set to release an electric version of its famous Smart: the Smart Forvision. This major rollout is the culmination of the hand-in-hand collaboration between Daimler and BASF. An interview with Martin Hülder, Director Smart Marketing and Product Management.
Smart Forvision: a 4-wheeled laboratory
Smart Forvision: a 4-wheeled laboratory

At the moment, the Smart Forvision is a concept car. When did you start working on this concept ? Will it be commercialized soon ?

We started working on the Smart Forvision in 2010. Since it is a concept car, it will not go into series production in this form. However, a key objective is to evaluate the individual technological components in relation to their suitability for series deployment in cars and we have already decided to use its insulation concept for the Smart Electric Drive to be introduced in September 2012.

This vehicle is the result of joint research by Daimler and BASF. How did this partnership work ? Could you tell us what the contribution of each partner was ?

Both Daimler and BASF are involved in wide-ranging research and development work contributing to further improvements in eMobility (everything concerning electric cars from the car itself to the supply network). For the Smart Forvision, we both pooled our technological expertise for the first time to shift energy efficiency up a gear. The combination of BASF and Daimler blended automotive expertise with material-science capability. The outcome of this collaboration is a ground-breaking vehicle concept: the Smart Forvision.



What percentage of the total weight of the vehicle do the plastic and composite materials make up ?

The use of carbon-fiber-reinforced epoxy resin, a high-performance composite material, enables a weight saving of more than 50 percent compared with steel or 30 percent compared with aluminum. Developed especially for the Smart Forvision, the rims, which are made completely of plastic, offer a glimpse into the energy saving mobility of the future. The thermoplastic composite rims save three kg per wheel in contrast to classic polyamide-composite materials. The innovative high performance material contains long reinforcement fibers that significantly improve its mechanical properties. And there is more to come in the future.


Do you think it will be possible to go even further in the future ? If so, what are the avenues to explore ?

Proven plastics are already used in innovative systematic lightweight construction with a high level of functional integration that reduces costs additionally. The new developments in the areas of seats, wings and engine mountings enable a further savings potential of around 50 kg per vehicle. There will also be lightweight construction concepts in the future, such as high-strength metal and plastic composite materials. The challenge is to develop manufacturing processes for high-volume production. But, as you may know, most of the body panels in the current Smart Fortwo series model are already made of lightweight plastic-panels.

Integrated Temperature Management abounds with innovation. What solutions have you developed for this temperature management ?

We have realized a comprehensive package of measures in the Smart Forvision – from infrared-reflective films in the front and side windows to infrared-reflective paints for the body. A few innovations, for example: the high-performance foams from BASF, fitted in the body panels maintain a pleasant climate inside the car. They keep the vehicle pleasantly cool in summer and also insulate it against the cold in winter. Thanks to their high efficiency, even in thin layers, they can be fitted everywhere in the vehicle. Conventional seat heating is replaced by e-textiles (textiles incorporating electronic components). They not only save energy, they are also efficient.


What materials have been developed for the body parts ? Do they also serve to strengthen the structure ?

Various components in the Smart Forvision are made from a new plastic which, in contrast to traditional polyamide composite materials, is reinforced with long fibers that improve its mechanical characteristics. This results in excellent thermal and chemical stability, dynamic strength, toughness and good continuous operating characteristics. In addition to the tridion passenger cell, further components like the doors are made of a high-performance composite material (carbon-fiber-reinforced epoxy resin).



The wheels are plastic. Are they as strong as metal rims or magnesium ?

High-performance composite materials offer a high level of stability and crash safety, as do the all-plastic rims in the Smart Forvision. In order to fully exploit the potential of the long-fiber-reinforced, high-performance polyamide Ultramid® structure, they offer the same functionality as common, heavy, metal components.

More creativity: the solar panels on the roof. What are they used for ?

For the first time, translucent hexagonal transparent panels are fitted on the roof of the car to generate energy. These are fully-transparent solar cells based on organic dyes embedded in a sandwich roof. The transparent dyes of the solar cells are activated by light. Even in diffused and poor light conditions, they generate enough energy to power the multimedia components and the three fans that assist the air conditioning in the vehicle interior. If the vehicle is standing in the sun, the ventilation is permanently operated with the help of photovoltaics, keeping the car cool. This new cell technology opens up further efficiency potential and the energy generated can be used for further applications in the car.

There is an additional new feature under the solar cells: transparent OLEDs (organic light-emitting diodes) illuminate the vehicle interior when the door is opened or a button is pressed. When switched off, they enable a clear view outside. This results in a glass roof effect during the daytime, while the areas are pleasantly illuminated without any dazzle at night. The new OLEDs not only consume less than half the energy of conventional energy-saving lamps, they also offer more design freedom thanks to a free choice of colours.



Have you worked on the battery performance ? 

In order to gain acceptance of electric vehicles, we have to make the vehicles attractive to customers. On the one hand, we have to improve the battery performance. We have done this in the new Smart Fortwo Electric Drive. For the first time, a battery from our joint venture "Deutsche ACCUmotive" with Evonik Industries has been fitted to the car, allowing an electric range of 145 kilometers.

Is it enough to convince ?

On the other hand, we have to consider further technologies, as shown in the Smart Forvision. The concept car clearly demonstrates the potential for the use of innovative materials in the automotive sector: e-textiles for efficient temperature management, advanced composite materials for weight reduction, super-absorbent nonwovens and flexible molded foam systems for more comfort. A standard approach in the automobile industry might be to simply enlarge batteries to gain range. At Smart, we try to optimize each aspect of a car. With the Forvision, we wanted to demonstrate that, by combining multiple measures in the construction of an electric car, an increase in range of up to 20 percent is possible without touching the battery.


In addition to the Smart brand, is Daimler involved in other clean vehicle projects ?

he Group’s focus is on innovative and green technologies as well as on safe and superior automobiles that appeal to and fascinate its customers. For many years now, Daimler has been investing continually in the development of alternative drive systems with the goal of making emission-free driving possible in the long term. So, in addition to vehicles with a hybrid drive, Daimler now has the broadest range of locally emission-free electric vehicles powered by batteries and fuel cells. Smart is Daimler’s brand for urban mobility and works as a think tank for new mobility solutions within the group.

Daimler in few words

Daimler AG is one of the world’s most successful automotive companies. With its divisions Mercedes-Benz Cars, Daimler Trucks, Mercedes-Benz Vans, Daimler Buses and Daimler Financial Services, the Daimler Group is one of the biggest producers of premium cars and the world’s biggest manufacturer of commercial vehicles with a global reach. Since its founding in 1886, Daimler has been a pioneer of automotive engineering and continues to shape the future of mobility today.





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