Much mystery surrounded the electric versions of the Fiat 500 that have appeared at auto shows over the last year.
Now, Chrysler has cleared up a bit of the confusion: It will build an electric Fiat 500 for the U.S. market, with a powertrain developed by engineers at its Michigan headquarters, at a price that's "competitive with similar electric vehicles in the market."
Fiat 500 BEV Concept on Chrysler standard, 2010 Detroit Auto ShowEnlarge Photo
The Fiat 500 EV will go into production in 2012, perhaps as a 2013 model. By that time, electric cars on the market will include the 2010 Tesla Roadster, 2011 Nissan Leaf, 2011 Coda Sedan, 2011 Chevrolet Volt, 2011 Fisker Karma, and 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid.
According to a Chrysler spokesman, the specifications of the 500 BEV concept shown at auto shows should not be viewed as reflective of a production vehicle.
While Nick Cappa, a Chrysler PR manager for technology, offered no details on technology, energy storage, power, performance, range, or timing, he acknowledged two marginally interesting points.
It would be "safe to assume," he said, both that the engine-less Fiat 500 vehicles to be converted to electric drive might be built at the Mexico plant where standard 500s will be manufactured.
Observers might also assume, he said, that lithium-ion cell maker A123 Systems--with whom Chrysler has said it is working--might be involved in designing the battery pack that will be used in the electric 500.
Cappa's most revealing comment came in describing the potential buyers of a Fiat 500 EV: "daily commuters who don't travel more than 40 miles a day"--though he hastened to add that the 500 EV would have a range "well beyond that" and be highway capable.
Like most pure electric vehicles going into production, the electric Fiat is on the small side. "The Fiat 500 is a small, lightweight platform perfect for integrating electric-vehicle technology," said Scott Kunselman, Chrysler Group's senior vice president of engineering.
The conventional gasoline-powered 2011 Fiat 500 will go on sale at selected Chrysler dealers in the U.S. before the end of this year. While EPA ratings haven't yet been issued, we'd expect it to be on a par with the 2010 Mini Cooper, at 28 mpg city, 37 mpg highway.
Despite various pre-bankruptcy promises and pledges, the Fiat 500 EV is the first electric car Chrysler has announced it will build, because electric cars have gained a far higher profile lately. "They're not just important," Cappa said. "They're necessary."
[Chrysler Group LLC]