What is it? The 500e is Fiat’s (and parent-company Chrysler’s) first entry into the electric vehicle market. It uses a relatively large 24-kWh lithium-ion battery, which Fiat says can propel the car 100 miles before it needs a recharge. The 500e also uses a 6.6-kW onboard charger, which can cut charge times in half compared with some other electric cars.
What is new or notable? The 6.6-kW charger is only the third in a production electric vehicle. Expect charge times of about four hours. But Fiat won’t offer a so-called “quick charge” port that could get charge times down to a half hour as some competitors do.
CR’s take: While Chrysler Chairman Sergio Marchionne has said he doesn’t see electric cars as the future of the company and won’t invest significantly in them, it had to build the token 500e to meet California’s Zero Emissions Vehicle requirements. Yet Chrysler didn't just phone this one in. Its battery is larger than that in either the Nissan Leaf or the Ford Focus Electric, yet the 500e is a smaller, lighter car. That’s a combination that could lead to intriguing range, performance, or potentially both.
When will it be available? Spring 2013