Suppose you could get a new electric car for $83 a month--and its running costs per mile were only a fraction of what a gasoline car would in fuel.

That'd be almost a free car, right?

Indeed, the allure of such a deal added to the viral nature of the Internet led to sales of roughly 100 Fiat 500e electric cars in California over the last week alone via group buys among the members of two different racing-oriented communities.

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We first learned of the "feeding frenzy" to lease the little Fiat 500e from Joe Nuxoll, a freelance photographer, racing instructor, and contributor to High Gear Media.

As of last Thursday, he's driving a new charcoal grey 2015 Fiat 500e for a total lease payment of $82.75 a month for 36 months.

The deal was made possible by generous discounts on the subcompact Fiat 500e electric car; the suggested retail price of $32,000 was reduced by a $2,100 limited-time promotion offered by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

That brought the down payment to $11,000 for that low monthly lease cost. The Fiat 500e is eligible for a Federal income-tax credit of $7,500, which the leasing company applied directly to the down payment.

New 2015 Fiat 500e, San Jose, California, March 2015 [snapshot: Joe Nuxoll]

New 2015 Fiat 500e, San Jose, California, March 2015 [snapshot: Joe Nuxoll]

That left $3,500, which will be offset by a $2,500 purchase rebate from the state of California--which Nuxoll and other buyers will get in the form of a check in the mail several weeks after they apply for it.

In other words, Nuxoll gets to drive a brand-new electric car for three years, and it cost him a net $1,000 down and $82.75 per month. (He's limited to 10,000 miles per year, though.)

Even more remarkable, buyers who could show that they were currently leasing a car from a non-Fiat Chrysler brand received an additional $1,000 incentive.

They got the Fiat 500e, in other words, for no money down at all.

ALSO SEE: Consumer Reports Likes Fiat 500e: Still A Compliance Car, Sadly (Feb 2013)

The group buy started a week ago today, Nuxoll said, when Drive Club member Kit Wetzler posted a note mentioning the lease deals.

Interest in the cheap electric car spread, and quickly jumped to a second, invitation-only group for racing drivers and instructors.

Ultimately, three separate Fiat dealers in the San Francisco Bay Area ended up leasing more than 80 electric Fiat 500s before the dust started to settle over the weekend.

But, Nuxoll said, interest reignited on Monday, and more leases were written--meaning that the total will likely exceed 100 Fiat 500e leases by the time it's all done.

New Fiat 500e group shot, racers' group buy. Photo by Joe Nuxoll.

New Fiat 500e group shot, racers' group buy. Photo by Joe Nuxoll.

The timing appears fortuitous, as several Fiat stores in California had just received fresh shipments of electric 500e models--perhaps as many as 100 per dealer.

A smart sales manager somewhere in the Fiat Chrysler hierarchy noticed last week's explosion of leasing, and the $2,100-off-sticker incentive has now been renewed.

Nuxoll, meanwhile, has rewired his garage and will be installing a Bosch 40-amp, 240-volt Level 2 charging station this week.

His new Fiat 500e is parked next to his Spec Miata race car; his 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee tow car now sits in the street.

As holder of three consecutive lap titles at the annual RE:Fuel electric-car racing event--all in Tesla Roadsters--Nuxoll is well acquainted with the joys of electric driving.

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

It's unclear what this latest sale of 100 or more Fiat 500e cars does for sales figures; Fiat Chrysler has repeatedly refused to release or discuss sales figures for its sole plug-in car.

For the rest of us, you too could lease an electric Fiat 500e for less than $100 a month, or close--but only if you live in California or Oregon.

The Fiat 500e, as a low-volume compliance car that keeps Fiat Chrysler on the right side of California zero-emission vehicle sales laws, is only sold in that state.

And if you have a lease from a non-Chrysler company, your net money down could be precisely zero.


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