Published November 29, 2012
By Pete Brissette
Fiat thinks it has the answer to what it describes as the “blocky, bulky, busy, ugly … and worst of all, goofy” current crop of environmentally friendly automobiles on the market.
During the Fiat press conference at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Sshow, Fiat's worldwide brand chief, Olivier Francois, primed the crowd for the unveiling of the all-electric powertrain 500e by asking, “Isn't ugliness the worst pollution of all?”
François’ blatant implication was that the sporty design DNA of Fiat's 500 lineup now infused in the all-new 500e is the remedy for a market full of unattractive and uninspired alternative-fuel vehicles.
“Any company can deliver that's environmentally friendly,” said François. “Let me tell you it takes Fiat to deliver something that's environmentally sexy.”
Vehicle aesthetics are subjective; but Fiat backs up the appearance of the 500e with notable figures for its new EV.
Fiat says the micro car offers driving range of at least 80 miles, with city driving pushing the range to 100 miles The company also says the EV will go 0 – 60 in nine seconds, with a top speed of 85 mph. François stated the battery's performance is “all-weather,” saying range isn't reduced by ambient temperature extremes, and that a full recharge takes approximately four hours via a 240-volt charger.
The li-ion battery has an eight-year warranty.
The Chrysler-owned car company says its new EV’s electric motor produces 111 horsepower and 147 pound-feet of torque from a 24-kilowatt lithium-ion battery. Additionally, the car's battery charge level, tire pressure, charging status, remote heating and cooling, as well as locating nearby charging stations and numerous other features, are all accessible via a smart phone app.
Beyond passion-driven Italian styling and the above performance figures, Fiat was otherwise light on details for the 500e in terms of MSRP but did announce that when the car goes on sale in Spring 2013 it will be immediately available from dealers, but only in California.
This California-only footnote may further lend credence to recent speculation that the 500e is merely a compliance car meant to meet California regulations requiring manufactures produce a certain percentage of zero-emission vehicles.
While François injected entertainment and requisite enthusiasm for the 500e, a great deal more time was spent on the unveiling of Fiat’s new four-door 500L. According to Fiat the new vehicle is only two feet longer than two-door 500 models, but offers 42 percent more interior room. The L model will arrive in Summer 2013.
Also of note, François stated that all manual transmission 500 models get a minimum of 40 mpg.