Once was merely cute, now gets cool.
Price: $13,000; Weight: 1,738 lbs.; Power (hp/torque): 80 hp/81 lb.-ft.; Fuel
Economy: 43 mpg; Available: Europe
The new Smart roadster from DaimlerChrysler is an attempt to give the company's ultracompact city-car platform some sports-car appeal as DaimlerChrysler seeks to expand the line and, it hopes, eventually introduce the Smart into the United States. The roadster weighs less than 1,750 pounds, but with an engine that displaces less than a liter, this is no rocket. (DaimlerChrysler promises an â€extremely sporty variant," but doesn't say when.) The most interesting technology remains the replaceable body panels, which allow drivers to change their car from, say, Jack Black (color, not actor) to Champagne Remix. The lightweight panels attach to the car's frame with simple plastic fasteners, designed for relatively easy removal and reattachment. They're made of recyclable thermoplastic capable of â€reversible deformation," meaning
most dents will spring back. In Europe, custom Smart color combos proliferate.
Will we get Smart? Depends on whether DaimlerChrysler can cram emissions systems into
the compact space or find another solution. Skeptics say no one wants a car this tiny, but
wants tend to change as streets get clogged.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.