Smart Previews Forvision Ahead of Frankfurt Auto Show

For all its, well, shortcomings, the Smart car has often been an ambitious workshop for forward-thinking automotive design. The Forvision concept, scheduled to have its debut in Frankfurt this month, appears to be a message from Daimler, Smart’s parent, to BMW and its “i” subbrand: two can play at this city-car-of-tomorrow game.

An advanced electric drive system is one of the older technologies applied to this laboratory on wheels. The concept’s newer features include a fully transparent glass roof that incorporates photovoltaic cells. Even in poor lighting conditions, the cells would generate enough energy to power the car’s multimedia system and three HVAC fans, Daimler claims.

The concept’s exterior paint was developed by BASF, the chemical engineering company, and is said to reflect and reduce heat within the cockpit by up to four degress Celsius on a hot day. A similar reflective film can also be applied to the greenhouse.

Weight savings is achieved through extensive use of plastics and carbon fiber reinforced polymers. Daimler saved six pounds per wheel over a conventional alloy rim by using a plastic polymer sourced from BASF and said the wheels were being tested for a production application.

The passenger compartment is a one-piece design, and it and the doors are made of the carbon fiber polymers, much like the BMW i3 city car. Weight savings is 50 percent compared with steel and 30 percent compared with aluminum, Daimler says.

Also conceptual are the Forvision’s prospects for production. A new Smart Fortwo model is expected in coming years, which could incorporate some of the advances being showcased in the Forvision.

The Web debut of the Smart Fortwo concept is one of many expected in advance of the Frankfurt auto show, which officially begins its press previews on Sept. 13. Wheels will be running advance coverage of the show’s most highly anticipated debuts and will be on the convention floor on the 13th.