2014 Fiat 500E Drivers Latest To Get Use Of 'Free Car' Loaners

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2013 Fiat 500e

2013 Fiat 500e

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"But what if I want to drive across the country?" ask people who never drive across the country, when discussing the subject of an electric car's range.

In a way, they do have a point. Unless you have time on your side, or a Tesla Model S and a string of Superchargers between yourself and your destination, electric cars aren't really built for distance driving.

Fiat has become one of several automakers to fix that issue, by offering a gasoline-powered loaner for those infrequent trips beyond your electric car's range.

For up to 12 days per year, reports Automotive News, buyers of the Fiat 500e electric minicar can rent another vehicle for free from a national chain, under a program called 'ePass'.

The 500e, sold only in California to meet the state's regulations for electric vehicle sales (making it onto our 'compliance cars' list), debuted in November last year at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

The free rental scheme runs through Enterprise Holdings, the group in charge of the Enterprise, Alamo and National car rental brands.

Each 500e comes with a business account and enough points to rent a standard gasoline vehicle for 12 days per year. Fiat will add to this tally each year to extend the deal over the first three years of ownership.

500e buyers can of course use their points in any way they wish, so if they'd prefer to rent a minivan, pickup or convertible they can do--though they'll use more of their points allocation. The consumer is responsible for any additional insurance charges and similar with the rental agreement.

According to Tim Kuniskis, head of the Fiat brand in North America, the scheme will help to overcome possible marketing issues with the car--those times when a buyer asks the question we posed at the start.

"We know we've got a great car," he said, "But I still can't get a guy to New York to visit his grandma for Easter."

Fiat's scheme joins a similar program announced recently by BMW. Befitting BMW's more upmarket stature, the German automaker's scheme is less limited than Fiat's.

Not only will BMW's loaner car be from the manufacturer's own stable, but drivers will be able to book the vehicle for as long as they need it--so trips away can be as long as the owner needs.

Both schemes are an interesting way of dealing with the concept of range anxiety however, and could be an ideal way to get drivers into electric cars while battery range remains low.

Take away the biggest perceived negative factor about the vehicles, and it makes their benefits even easier to appreciate.


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Comments (6)
  1. Lets face it, there are not enough charging stations, even with the top line Telsa that goes 350 miles on a charge, if you want to go to Lake Tahoe you may make it, but how do you get home, if you plug it in a standard outlet your stuck for a day or two charging the car, they are great for in town and commuting, but what about the remainder of your auto needs, besides the cost are only for the rich who like to say they are doing their part.

  2. Sorry @Ed, Tahoe is a poor example.

    One of Tesla's 1st Super Chargers was installed at Folsom Outlets Mall (Sacramento, CA), which is 80 miles from South Lake Tahoe (+20 to north lake). EVs will consume more juice going up-hill, but return trip is a net down-hill. Also, a number of 6.6 kW chargers are around the lake, so worst case a full 85 kW charge would take ~12 hours. Days for personal recharge, not EVs. ;)

    In Pacfic North West, there are 50 kW CHAdeMO quick chargers every 50-60 miles from Whistler, BC to Oregon-California border along I-5. Over the course of this year, California is set to install 250-300 50kW DC chargers. The EV support equipment (EVSE) networks are new, but the number of possible destinations is quickly EVolving.

  3. Actually, there aren't any "working" chargers around South Lake Tahoe. However, with a full charge at Folsom, you should be able to get to South Lake Tahoe and back with a full charge.

  4. That's what the artcile is about. Did you read it? When you want to take a long trip the dealership gives you a gas car for free. I own a Nissan LEAF (LOVE IT!!!!) and Nissan got me a rental for free last month for our ski trip to Colorado. It's a great solution until there are more charging stations. We have about 50 charging stations in Kansas City so it's not an issue for me.

  5. Mark; I am all in; but buddy, you can't drive 1 hour and then stop for another hour to charge. The Leaf's 80 mile range does not make it practical for vacation trips REGARDLESS of how many charging stations they put between you and CO.
    With the Tesla it's difference. Drive for 3 hours, rest for 1. Drive for another 3 hours and go to sleep.

  6. I drive cross coun try all the time, no tricks o schticks. i pull into a batt-swap station anytime I need to extend my drive, and drive off in five minutes. The problem is SOLVED if you want to participate. However it seems that the Oil collosus is doing its best to prevent implementation of a working solution

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