GM has the Volt and the Spark, Ford has the Focus Electric, and now Chrysler has the Fiat 500e. The first all-electric car from the third member of the Detroit Big Three made its debut this week at the 2012 L.A. Auto Show. The diminutive electric promises to be one of the cleanest cars on North American roads, though it won’t be available to many North Americans.
Fiat believes its new electric car effectively combines zero local emissions driving and “iconic Italian design.” The 500e is powered by a 111-hp (83 kW) electric motor and floor-mounted 24 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that provide up to 80 miles (129 km) of range (100 miles/161 km in the city), 147 lb-ft of torque and a top speed of 85 mph (137 km/h). Fiat estimates that the 500e will boast 108 mpg-e combined, making it one of the most efficient cars on the road.
An electric minicar may never be the equivalent of a V8 sports car when it comes to driving excitement, but Fiat thinks the car will be more fun to drive than competitors.
“Other EVs are benign and lifeless until the accelerator is pressed,” the company explains in a press release. “In keeping with its sporty, fun-to-drive character, the Fiat 500e incorporates a “creep” feature, which launches the car smoothly and assuredly as soon as its brake pedal is released, just like a vehicle powered by an idling engine.”
The battery pack will take less than four hours to charge with a 240-volt Level 2 charger or about 24 hours with a 120-volt charger.
In addition to trading gas for battery power, Fiat made several other changes from the base 500. It designed a new chassis and suspension around the electric powertrain to improve driving dynamics. A series of aerodynamic enhancements, such as re-sculpted front and rear fascias and the rear spoiler, went through more than 140 hours of wind-tunnel testing to cut drag and eke out 5 extra miles (8 km) of range.
Inside, Fiat designed what it calls a “retro-futuristic” look. Electric Orange highlights bring the Nero black or Steam white interior to life, while a 7-inch TFT instrument cluster and available TomTom navigation system keep the driver apprised of vehicle and road information. An all-new push-button electronic shifter sits below the instrument panel.
Like any good electric vehicle, the Fiat 500e will have an accompanying smartphone app. The app, which will be available for both Apple and Android phones, will manage charging, provide real-time vehicle status, track energy usage, find the vehicle and nearby charging stations, plan and send routes to the vehicle, and provide text-message alerts.
The 2013 500e will hit the Californian market in the second quarter of next year. Fiat has admitted to the media in the past that it really didn’t want to build the car but did so to meet California’s zero emissions vehicle mandate. So it only plans to sell the model in the Golden State upon launch and will be loath to expand that availability since it anticipates losing money on every model sold.