While most automakers are busy pandering to the environmental crowd and trying to project that “we love the earth, too!” persona, Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, in a show of Italian bravado, was very up front about the company’s position, essentially stating that the only reasons Fiat was even bringing the 500e to the market was to appease California’s ZEV mandate, and the opportunity it provided Chrysler engineers to learn more about electric powertrains. Not the most orthodox way to build excitement about a vehicle, electric or not, but we appreciate Marchionne’s candor. Of course, for a vehicle that Fiat says could cost the company as much as $10,000 per unit, we can’t say we blame them.
Nevertheless, despite its feet-dragging, Fiat unveiled the 500e at the LA Auto Show this week. As with all EVs the most important figure surrounding the vehicle is its range. Fiat says the car will be able to travel 100 miles on a single charge of its 24 kWh lithium ion battery, but that figure is more realistic when confined to simple city driving, with “more a than 80-mile range” in varied driving conditions (read: city/highway).
Sending power to the wheels is a 111 horsepower (83 kW) electric-drive motor. Charging time is also an important factor when it comes to electric cars, and according to Fiat, the 500e should recharge in less than four hours when utilizing a Level 2 (240-volt) charger. The 500e will also feature a regenerative breaking system, so the savvy driver should be able to grind out a few extra miles while driving, although how much that figure will be remains to be seen.
The standard Fiat 500 is a stylish Italian-bred creature, and given the massive similarity between the gasoline and electric model, it’s no surprise that that eye-catching Italian personality shines through. The 500e will be available in three distinct exterior treatments: Nero (black) Bianco Perla, and an eSport package. These treatments dictate the color of the exterior accents, like the front fascia and mirrors. Of course buyers can choose between five distinct hues as well, including Argento (silver) Grigio (gray), Bianco Perla (white), Nero (black), and Electrico Arancione (electric orange).
Fiat says some design tweaks have been made to give the 500e an “electrified look” and improved aerodynamics, which include unique wind-tunnel-sculpted front and rear fascias, exterior mirror caps, side sills, under vehicle bellypans, and a new liftgate mounted aero spoiler extending the vehicle’s roofline. All of these elements work in unison to reduce the Fiat 500e’s drag coefficient and improve the vehicle’s aerodynamic performance.
As you’ve probably noticed, we haven’t mentioned price or availability, sadly our charm didn’t work on the showfloor as Fiat representatives refused to comment on whether or not the 500e would see release outside of California, but given Marchionne’s less than enthusiastic attitude towards the vehicle, coupled with that alleged $10,000 hit Fiat-Chrysler would take on each sold, we can’t see the Italian automaker wanting to sell it beyond the confines of California. Of course, we’ll update this space once we learn more. Until then though, it’s looking like the 500e is strictly a compliance car.