Electric Fiat 500e returns to a different America

Italian automaker Fiat is bringing the battery-electric 500e back to North America. A lot has changed since the last time it was on the market here.

The Stellantis-owned brand has been withering away for the past decade with interesting but slow-selling products. US sales fell, but the automaker thinks it can change American attitudes about small cars with its new model, the electric version of its most popular vehicle in the world.

“The Fiat 500e is designed and engineered to be the best city car ever. While some customers may choose to use the car in multiple driving cycles, most people drive about 33 miles per day and will benefit from the small package and 150 miles. The Fiat 500e can make multiple trips to and from work or errands without having to recharge every day,” said Aamir Ahmed, head of Fiat North America. Newsweek.

Fiat brought its 500 gas car to the US in 2011 and its 500th electric car (EV) to California in 2013. In 2019, production was halted in North America. A new 500e came to Europe in 2022, but only late. in 2022 that the brand announced that its 2024 500e would be sold here.

As for the lessons it learned in California, Fiat says it knows the car isn’t just in demand on the West Coast.

“It led us to build a completely new variant from the ground up with the intention of switching completely to electric vehicles worldwide. We also found that the previous generation was making its way to other states, demonstrating demand in those regions as well. The new Fiat 500e will be available in all 50 states plus Puerto Rico,” Ahmed said.

Experts agree that Fiat makes sense if there are places to charge and most amenities are within a few miles, but that will limit sales in much of the country.

“The Fiat 500e will stand out as one of the smallest cars on sale in North America, which combined with its two-door body style and relatively short range will limit its appeal to certain types of EV buyers. It is an EV that is very European in its concept and execution with its handy, easy-to-park size, bold styling and modest performance and range,” said Ed Kim, president and chief analyst at AutoPacific. Newsweek.

“It’s an electric car designed from the ground up as an electric city car, which may make it very relevant in markets like Los Angeles or New York City, but in Peoria it may end up without an audience.”

The two-door 500e is Stellantis’ first battery electric vehicle (BEV) in the US. It will be the lightest electric passenger car on the market and has a fully electric range of 230 kilometers.

The 42 kWh battery can be charged in just over four hours with a Level 2 charger in the wall box, which is included in the purchase price if the buyer so chooses. They can also opt for on-the-go charging credits.

On a DC fast charger it can cover 50 kilometers in five minutes under ideal charging conditions, enough for an average driving day. The electric motor produces 118 horsepower (hp) and 162 pound-feet (lb-ft) of torque, reaching 0 to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds.

The original 500e made slightly less than that, 111 hp and 147 lb-ft of torque, and had a range of just 90 miles on a charge.

But like all electric vehicles, it will compete with Tesla and its Model 3, which costs $40,630 (including destination and driving, but before tax credits). The base model has an exceptional range of 430 km and delivers 271 hp.

“The 500e will face the same headwinds as every other electric car on the market today – affordability and range anxiety – which our Autolist surveys have shown have been top consumer concerns for years. The sticker price of the 500e is not much lower than that of the 500e. revised Tesla Model 3 that has significantly more range, says David Undercoffler, editor-in-chief of Autolist Newsweek.

“While the 500e’s 140-mile range is suitable for city drivers and those with access to a robust charging network, that’s still too low to calm the nerves of many new EV buyers… and the lack of ultra-fast charging doesn’t help. .”

Fiat didn’t name competitors for the quirky 500e, but said it could replace an SUV or be added to a family’s lineup to simplify quick trips in and out of the city. However, the 2024 Mini Cooper SE would be an obvious choice. It has a 181 hp electric motor and a range of approximately 180 kilometers. It can reach 60 mph in 6.9 seconds and can regain 80 percent of its battery in 36 minutes when connected to a DC fast charger.

The starting prices of the Mini Cooper SE and 500e are close, at $30,900 and $32,500 respectively. Neither vehicle is eligible for the EV tax credit upon purchase as neither was built here and neither has its batteries installed here. However, when leasing, buyers can get the full $7,500 tax credit.

Both vehicles are banking on America falling in love with small cars again. They make sense given the efficiency of a subcompact electric car and the fact that people drive alone most of the time, more than 75 percent while commuting.