Autocrossing a Fiat 500e electric car for first, maybe last, time

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When we published an article on one owner's experience using his Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car to compete in a local autocross, it contained a comment that riled up our reader Doug Kerr.

That comment—"Outside of one high-performance electric vehicle, casual electric cars are hardly the racer’s choice"—prompted Kerr to take the family's Fiat 500e to the nearest autocross, driven by his daughter Andrea.

What follows are Kerr's words, lightly edited by Green Car Reports for clarity and style.

DON'T MISS: Chevy Bolt EV electric car does many things: autocrossing is one

I talked my daughter, Andrea, into autocrossing her 2015 Fiat 500e, an entirely electric vehicle to see how she did against the “racer’s choice.”

Because the event was officially sanctioned by the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), the car needed to be properly classified beforehand. Here we ran into our first obstacle.

The Fiat 500e has not been classified by the SCCA. The base 500 is excluded because of its rollover risk, but the 500 Abarth, a higher performance Fiat, is allowed.

Andrea Kerr driving Fiat 500e electric car in autocross, Great Park, Irvine, Califronia, July 2017

Andrea Kerr driving Fiat 500e electric car in autocross, Great Park, Irvine, Califronia, July 2017

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As most people know, electric cars have a heavy battery at the very bottom of the car. The 500e's 600-plus-pound battery sits under the floorboards, making its rollover possibility very slight.

But according to everything I read, the 500e didn’t get approved because many electric cars tend to have a higher ride height to provide additional suspension clearance given their heavy batteries.

Interestingly, the autocross event manager told me that the Bolt had recently been excluded as not meeting the measurements; the Nissan Leaf has not been classified.

READ THIS: Deal of the year? Used Fiat 500e electric cars at $6,500?

In the end, we just showed up at the autocross at the former El Toro Marine base in Irvine, California, now Great Park, that was put on by Southern California's SCCA chapter, Cal Club. One runway remains and hasn't been bulldozed.

The event manager and the rules-safety officer were immediately called in to determine if this unclassified car had any business autocrossing. They took some measurements—and figured that the 500e was close enough.

Truly, I think they were smart enough to figure out that a 600-pound battery would not allow a small car to roll.

Andrea Kerr driving Fiat 500e electric car in autocross, Great Park, Irvine, Califronia, July 2017

Andrea Kerr driving Fiat 500e electric car in autocross, Great Park, Irvine, Califronia, July 2017

Enlarge Photo

We proceeded to the tech inspection, and Andrea received her car number. By the time we had cleared all the issues, Andrea had missed one-half of the course walkthough.

This is important, because there are no practice laps: you get four tries, and your best time determines how well you place.

Andrea signed up as a novice along with 30 other drivers. This classification provides an instructor who drives your car around the course with you as a passenger, showing you the best line and braking points.

CHECK OUT: 2013 Fiat 500e Electric Car: First Drive (Apr 2013)

As Andrea headed to the lineup with her car, the announcer noticed her brilliant, traffic-cone orange car. In his Australian accent, he called out that there was an electric car coming up.

This reminded him of his niece who had come to the course awhile back in her electric car.

She made it to the park, and all she did was watch the event, but wasn’t sure she could make it back to Santa Margarita without running out of power. That’s called “range anxiety” he opined to everyone within 2 miles. I barely resisted the urge to grab his mic.


 
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