I have been interested in EVs for quite some time, however after driving a Model 3 a few months back, I have been seriously looking for something to test the waters more affordably. After one evening of searching EVs on the craigslist with no filtering, I came across the funky Fiat 500e. I was aware of it's existence, but never gave it much attention, as I figured that it was a half-baked compliance car, and nothing more. I was wrong. What I discovered is that it was actually a very well done EV - one that under-promised and over-delivered.
To start, I quickly learned the drive unit is produced by Bosch, and that unlike the Leaf, these have a liquid cooled and heated battery pack, which is also a Samsung lithium unit. Overall, the EV portion of this Fiat seemed to eliminate a good portion of the Fiat reliability concerns - the powertrain! Interesting. The advertised range was typical at 87 miles, however, many folks were able to easily get in the 100s. Really? I then discovered that there are a ton of 2016 lease returns ranging from $7k-$12k, most of which have over 1 year remaining on the 4yr/50k mile B2B warranty, and another 5 years on the 8 year battery warranty - WOW!
So I started my hunt on cars.com, but since most of these were in California, and I am in Wisconsin, I was having trouble even getting a response. This was until I discovered a site near Chicago called Current Automotive, which specialize in only EVs, and had a 2016 Orange over Black with 14k miles arriving late last week. So I made an appointment for Saturday morning to view the car (before they even took photos of it for their ad), and I came away extremely impressed.
The car itself looks like just about any other Fiat 500, except for the different front and rear valences, Electric Orange Tri-Coat Pearl paint, which a fantastic color unique to the EVs, and a lower case 'e' next to the '500' nameplate. So in other words, no one knows it's an EV. The gas cap is replaced with a charge port, and the shifter is replaced with a push-button selector. The one odd remaining detail is the Fiat key, which must be installed into the ignition switch, and not only rotated to 'Run', but must also engage 'Start' in order to activate the drive unit - I make a fake starter noise when I do this.
Quiet, Torquey, Smooth. This describes my first impressions. In other words, it drives very well. It does lack the immediacy off the line of a few other EVs I have driven, but it quickly accelerates once it passes 5 mph. It is very responsive at any speed above 5 mph, which makes me wonder if they programmed this in to keep it stable off the line. The car rides extremely well, but it does roll a bit in the bends, as I think they set the suspension toward the softer end of the spectrum. I think this is also a function of the added weight too, which is now much more evenly distributed, making for more balanced handling.
To start my first journey in an EV, I selected one with an 87 mile range to drive 140 miles home! Plugshare was my friend. My first stop was at a Shopping Mall in West Dundee, IL, where they had 4 charge stands. Being a complete newbie, I pulled up, and wondered what to do. So I simply took the cord, plugged it in, and heard all of the contactors engage, and saw the car begin charging - well that was stupid easy! This was only 30 miles into my trip, but the guess-o-meter had still displayed 79 miles remaining before I even plugged in, which put me over the 100 mile range - consistent to what I have been seeing on the forums.
My next stop was at a Chevy Dealer in Burlington, WI. I had plenty of range left, in fact, enough to make it home, but it had good reviews on plugshare, and I wanted to try it out just for the novelty of it. Plus there was a Menards next door, so there was that. Same thing here - simply plug it in, and let the 'free' fuel flow - amazing! Lastly, I stopped at Boucher Nissan in Waukesha , Wisconsin. Same thing, 'free' fuel, and no one cares! I stayed by the car here, but ended up talking to several salesfolks who were interested in my bright orange Fiat. No one knew the car existed, and everyone really loved the color and style.
Driving a bright orange Fiat is like having a puppy. Everyone looks at it, and lots of folks are interested in it - especially kids! When they find out it is electric, the are really surprised, and often ask many questions, usually relating to charging, range anxiety, and whatever else they heard on TV. I tell them that I can go about 90-100 miles between charges, charge it at home, and that my round trip commute is 28 miles, and I have 4 gas burners in my garage if I feel I might exceed my range. The last point is the one that usually makes them go I hadn't thought of that. I also tell them my mpge value, which is a completely dumb measurement, but is completely relateable to the general public, and currently sits at 158.
I consider this next year to be a test to see how an EV fits into my life. By next year at this time, I expect that I may be selling fantastic Focus ST. That is how much fun this quirky Fiat is! However, only time will tell for sure, but having this much fun for 20% of the fuel cost of my Focus, and next to no maintenance is very appealing. Also, my wife and daughter both love the car, and my daughter has already asked me if she can have it after she graduates college.
Here is a pick for clicks - not my car, but it looks exactly like it!