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Smart move: Cheapest electric car comes to Boston in May

Mark your digital calendars: The cheapest, tiniest and most roofless electric car on sale is coming to Boston on May 13.

Three years ago, the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive came here as limited-production European prototype and was offered to a handful of Boston-area residents and businesses on a pricey four-year lease. When I drove one in 2010, the acceleration and measly 60-mph top speed were a painful chore.

Smart has wised up. The new ForTwo ED promises real-world performance — and at $25,000 before tax credits, the best price among all new electric cars. When equipped with a soft top, this short two-seater can also claim title as the only electric convertible on the market.

As Massachusetts is one of 14 “CARB” states — those which follow the stricter emissions laws of the California Air Resources Board, designed to promote electric vehicles — we’ll see this little ForTwo months before the rest of the country, said Terry Wei, Smart’s U.S. marketing manager.

“We cannot build them fast enough,” she said.

For the time being, Smart isn’t disclosing its production targets. But unlike rivals Toyota and Fiat, which have restricted their electric vehicle sales to California, Smart is planning a nationwide rollout and expects buyers to jump at the incentives. Even Chevrolet isn’t selling its upcoming Spark EV to buyers outside California and Oregon.

Jeff Davis, general manager at Herb Chambers Smart in Somerville, said he’s taken “eight or nine” preorders for the car, which has an EPA-estimated range of 68 miles per charge.

“We’re not going to sell these for $40,000,” he said, referring to the approximate price of the early prototype cars. “Smart hit its peak business a while ago but it is now coming back quite a bit. I think people want to see what the range is, how the car plugs in.”
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