The 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show is playing host to the introduction of the 2013 Fiat 500e, an electric-powered version of the Italian automaker's petite 3-door hatchback which goes on sale next year. Powered by a 97-cell lithium-ion battery pack, the electric powertrain delivers the equivalent of 111 bhp – which is a slight bump upwards from the standard gasoline-powered 500. Fiat has specifically retuned the suspension and electrically operated power system to fit the weight and packaging requirements of the 500e's electric powertrain. The structure of the 500e is also now 10-percent stiffer than before, which bodes well for Fiat's claims that this zero emission city-car will be as fun to drive as its internal combustion equivalent.
Similar Range, Quicker Charges
Based on its 83 kW power output, the 500e's acceleration should be similar to what you'll find in the base Fiat 500. Expect a 0 to 60 mph run in the region of 10 seconds, though city driving should feel noticeably peppier, thanks to the instant torque provided by electric vehicles. A push-button automatic transmission sends power the front wheels, and Fiat has engineered a "creep" feature into the car's off-the-line behavior. No, this isn't referring to the guy who just cut you off. When you release the brake pedal in the 500e, the car will creep forward, like a regular gas or diesel-powered vehicle, rather than stay eerily still like many EVs. This system should provide for smoother acceleration from a dead stop.
Fiat estimates a driving range of roughly 80 miles between charges. That's on par with most of the competition, such as the Ford Focus Electric and Nissan Leaf. One point in the Fiat's favor is a recharge time of less than 4 hours. Of course, you'll have to use a Level 2 (240-volt) charger to accomplish this feat. Plug into a regular 110-volt outlet, and you'll have to set aside up to 24 hours for a complete charge. A regenerative braking system at least helps claw back a few extra miles before any 110-volters out there have to take an entire day off from driving. Additional sound insulation and aerodynamic improvements ensure the cabin remains quiet, while having an added benefit of boosting the 500e's overall miles per gallon equivalency rating to 116 MPGe. For comparison, the Honda Fit EV has a 118 MPGe rating.
Sales of the Fiat 500e are expected to begin in the spring of 2013.