Fiat Takes The 500 Electric, With Pizzazz

Fiat is offering a big heap of new with its 500 model lineup in 2013, and you’ll know what popped out to us: Yep, the 500e, “e” standing for electric, of course. It’s the first road-going retail electric vehicle that Chrysler Group, majority-owned by Fiat, will sell.

Noting the flood of EVs coming onto the market, Fiat said it thinks it can make float to the top by offering snappy Italian styling, and coinciding with the Los Angeles Auto Show it showed off an “electric orange” Cinquecento with a “steam white” interior highlighted by racy orange stripes and flourishes.

Fiat 500e electric car

image via fiat

“The Fiat 500e changes the paradigm in an electric vehicle market that’s quickly becoming crowded,” Tim Kuniskis, head of FIAT Brand North America, said in a statement. “The Fiat 500e offers iconic Italian design and a great combination of performance and range, with battery technology that delivers consistent performance across all weather conditions.”

Fiat says there’s more to the look than just looking good, with the “retro-futuristic styling cues harking back to 1960s-era design” also bringing improved aerodynamics.

fiat 500e electric car

image via Fiat

Under the hood, as it were, the 500e’s 83-kilowatt (111 horsepower) motor comes paired with 24-kilowatt-hour battery that will typically deliver around 80 miles of driving on a full charge (a four-hour procedure using a level 2 setup, Fiat says), a figure that could bump over 100 miles if the driving is strictly of the city variety.

Interestingly, Fiat pointedly eschewed any sort of “eco” mode for the car – they’re common in EVs like the Mitsubishi i – saying “eco-buttons deaden throttle-response for marginal range improvement.” Another point of differentiation:

Other EVs are benign and lifeless until the accelerator is pressed. 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.

Alas, no price was specified for the car, which Fiat said will arrive in California in the second quarter of 2013.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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