In the world of automotive journeys, some missions are more personal and consequential than others. Such is the case with our 3-month venture, a mission intricately tied to a beloved urban gem - the Smart 451ED. The goal was clear: to rescue this cherished and superior compact EV from the clutches of global cannibalization for spare parts.
The Genesis: Smart 451ED and the StruGgle
The Smart 451ED, initially crafted by Tesla in collaboration with Daimler in the early 2000s, represented a pioneering step in EV technology. However, a decade later, this vehicle faced an existential crisis - the scarcity of appropriate replacement cells for its battery system. This tale unravels the unsustainable reality of the automotive industry, which fails to provide long-term solutions for replacement parts, especially on a 'component level.' The Smart 451ED suffered profoundly from a dearth of components, primarily for its battery system.
Chronicling the Ailment: A Depleting Battery System
Aside from inherent programmed faults in the Battery Management System (BMS) that pushed owners to financial peril, the long-term challenge lay in the degradation of edge cells. Despite active cooling and heating of the battery using antifreeze, the crystallization of electrolytes and damage to cell layers persisted. The degradation was glaring, leading to approximately 12 cells requiring replacement to restore the battery to 90% of its health.However, the dearth of materials posed a significant hindrance to this remedy.
A Glimmer of Hope: Innovative Recycling
After meticulous planning and brainstorming for months, a solution emerged serendipitously - recycled cells from a Ford Hybrid. Given that these cells were salvaged from discarded Ford Hybrid units, they presented a viable opportunity to design an entirely new battery pack. This new battery assembly, employing state-of-the-art Samsung SDI Prismatic cells with a 6C discharge rate and 50Ah capacity, remarkably improved the cooling of cell bodies and effectively reduced the overall battery weight by 50 kilograms, all while retaining the original battery capacity.
Sustainability in Every Aspect
In the comprehensive recycling process, every element was utilized. From the original aluminum protective cage,which acted as both a shielding barrier and cell holder, to the original 'coolante plate' radiators, and the wiring from the Smart 451 and Ford block, everything was repurposed. The result was a sustainable battery system, designed with ease of repair and replacement in mind, ensuring longevity and minimizing waste.
The Bottom Line: Affordability and Viability
The cost-effectiveness of this solution is undeniable. Priced between 6000€ and 8000€ (including VAT), this upgraded battery offers a more durable and high-quality alternative to the exorbitant prices quoted by Mercedes-Benz services for second-hand or new batteries. It addresses the issues of overheating cells and weakened cell connections, providing an updated and sustainable solution for a vehicle nearing a decade of service.
Shifting Gears: Enhanced Performance
The refurbished battery not only significantly reduced the vehicle's weight, thus enhancing efficiency and range, but it also lowered the internal resistance of the cells, minimizing thermal losses under load. The improved cooling surface further optimized cell temperature regulation.
Driving Towards the Future: Mileage and Sustainability
This project represents more than just an upgrade; it embodies a sustainable approach to EV maintenance and extends the lifespan of these vehicles. With a substantial increase in mileage, especially during moderate temperatures, this refurbished battery breathes new life into Smart 451EDs, setting a promising precedent for the circular economy within the automotive industry.
In conclusion, this initiative sheds light on the deceptive practices of the European automotive industry. While touting eMobility as a sustainable solution, they manufacture vehicles without ensuring sustainable sourcing, production, and availability of replacement parts, both for conventional and electric vehicles. It's a tale reminiscent of the 'dieselgate' scandal, concealed behind a facade of sustainability.