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The Fiat 500e: electrified Fiat 500 production car

electric car diagram

In 2010, Chrysler announced plans to produce an electric Fiat 500. Shown at the January 2010 Detroit Auto Show, the Fiat 500EV concept was, according to engineering chief Scott Kunselman, “a small, lightweight platform perfect for integrating electric-vehicle technology.” Manufacturing was to begin in 2012, with engineering taking place in Auburn Hills.

Electric powertrain

Fiat estimates the 500e will get a 116 mile per gallon equivalent (MPGe), city, and 100 MPGe highway. It has a 24 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, and a 111 horsepower (83kW) permanent-magnet, three-phase synchronous drive-motor. The “e- Drive” system, under a studded “engine cover,” generates 147 lb.-ft. (200 N•m) of peak torque, all of which is available at tip-in. That compares favorably to the standard Fiat 500 gasoline powertrain. The system is protected by a four-year warranty.

The Fiat 500e mimics gasoline-powered cars with a “creep” feature, which launches the car as soon as its brake pedal is released, like a car powered by an idling engine; it also uses the “braking” generators to simulate gas-car coasting.

Powered by an electric motor attached to the single-speed gearbox, the Fiat 500e’s e-Park prawl is activated when the driver pushes the park button. The gearbox enables increased torque output while allowing for lower motor input speeds, an attribute that conserves battery energy and extends range; it also helps maintain the axle-shaft angles.

The high-voltage battery is in the floor, and includes power management system to adjust current, cell voltage, and operating temperature. A stout capacity to handle charge/discharge cycles is backed by an eight-year warranty. The thermal management system maintains optimal operating temperatures to increase range and cut recharging times (under four hours with its 240-volt on-board charging module, and 24 hours via the 120-volt unit, when fully depleted).

electric orange car

The system cools the battery both with passive cooling and by circulating antifreeze through it. This ensures consistent cell-to-cell temperature and boosts battery life. Passive cooling is provided by a brazed aluminum radiator, which removes heat from the coolant as air enters the front of the car.

The Power Inverter Module (PIM) regulates the voltage sent to the eDrive, converting the battery’s direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC), which powers the drive-motor. Its auxiliary power module also reduces the battery’s high-voltage output to 12 volts for accessories. The PIM is designed to provide pedal feedback similar to those of gasoline cars.

Fiat 500e electric car body, chassis, and suspension

The resulting 2013 Fiat 500e, launched in late 2012, has a re-engineered suspension to provide “highly engaging dynamics” (good cornering) despite the heavier weight and altered weight distribution in an electric car. The Fiat 500e has increased spring rates, unique front-strut and rear-shock tuning, and bigger wheels: 15 x 5.5 inches in front, and 15 x 6.5 in the rear, for stability at high speeds.

The 2013 Fiat 500e has a 16.3:1 steering-gear ratio for responsiveness, with a unique electronic power steering calibration, and built in compensation for temporary road crown and crosswind situations where there is a constant push of the car to one side or another.

car

As befits any electric car, the 2013 Fiat 500e uses regenerative brakes which slow the car down by acting as generators; the system was designed to provide the same feel as an internal combustion vehicle when coasting. The Fiat 500e’s regenerative braking controller (RBC) determines the total amount of brake power requested, adjusting the use of friction and regenerative braking instantly. Four-channel antilock brakes allows individual wheel braking and provides backup braking if one of the two braking circuits fails; it uses a steering wheel angle sensor to differentiate between straight-line braking and braking in a turn. The stability control includes electronic brake-force distribution, rollover mitigation, Hill-start Assist (HSA), and Brake Assist.

Engineers developed a new noise, vibration and harshness package as well, in addition to cutting wind noise through aerodynamic improvements, the electrified Cinquecento has extra sound insulation on the floor, in the rear quarter of the body, in the wheelhouse liners, behind the rear seats, and in the front door. There are also new mirror flag and B-pillar foam seals, a new gasket between the mirror flag and door, a new straked antenna, a new carpet mass layer, and a new isolated engine torque mount. The glass has been upgraded with better belt and channel sealing, and new acoustic windshield glass.

fiat 500 electric

The lower body structure was redesigned to protect the battery, and increase bending stiffness by 10%. Extensive use of advanced steels and composites, resulting from computer-impact simulations, resulted in world-class torsional stiffness and the ability to carry a 97-cell lithium ion battery. The result is a tighter and stiffer feel, with an added sense of confidence and control during higher speed maneuvers. The weight balance has been improved from 64/36 to 57/43.

Stereo and dashboard

The Fiat 500e’s 7-inch thin-film transistor (TFT) instrument cluster, familiar to 2013 Dodge Dart and 2013 Ram 1500 buyers, provides numerous graphics, including a welcome screen and estimated time to recharge. If an attempt is made to start the vehicle while it is plugged in, the cluster will alert the driver.

Large digital readouts show speed and range; they are ringed by gauges that give feedback on state-of-charge and driving style. Odometer, time, date, gear-selection and driving mode are also showcased. Drivers can also easily access information such as average speed, energy consumption, and distance.

gauges for 500e

The removable Fiat 500e’s TomTom Navigation system is similar to that of other Fiat 500s [see review], but adds a free, PIN-protected app which allows owners to send destinations from their mobile devices to the TomTom. It also displays charge station locations and their current availability also are displayed, and can show vehicle status information.

Energy management is shown with digital “flow gauges” that track demands on the car’s battery. Monitored systems range from the drive motor to climate-control, while low-charge and destination-out-of-range indicators contribute to trip planning; the system also can be used to set recharging schedules.

A free exclusive Fiat 500e app (iPhone and Android) mirrors the instrument cluster, with state-of-charge, range, and estimated time to full recharge. Other screens deliver charge-status updates, if the vehicle is plugged in, and the ability to schedule charging when rates are lowest; and it provides remote access to the vehicle’s climate-control system, tire-pressure updates, and the ability to lock and unlock the car’s doors — and to honk the horn remotely.

iPhone and Android app

The 2012 Fiat 500’s premium stereo has been replaced by a new seven-speaker Alpine Premium audio system with subwoofer, seven-channel custom equalization, and a series digital amplifier, with satellite radio and MP3 player connectivity via USB or audio auxiliary jack. Controls for volume and station selection are the on back of the Fiat 500e’s steering wheel, while a mute button is on front.

The Fiat 500e has seven standard air bags: driver and front passenger, driver’s knee, full-length side-curtain, and seat-mounted side pelvic-thorax air bags. Reactive head restraints, which activate during a rear impact, minimize injuries by reducing the gap between the head restraint and the passenger’s head.

Fiat-Chrysler electric car aerodynamics and packages

Roberto Giolito, head of Fiat Style, said, “With its dot-matrix gradient patterns, Electrico Arancione accents and aerodynamically enhanced Cinquecento silhouette, the all-new Fiat 500e takes a retro-futuristic approach to match its advanced propulsion and zero-emission powertrain.”

The designers needed to keep the “whiskers and logo” face with lower park and fog lamps; underneath, a two-piece front fascia was sculpted for minimal drag and airflow to electrical components. The fascia insert features projector-beam fog lamps and the “500e” logo.

Designers used wind tunnels to sculpt unique front and rear fascias, exterior mirror caps, side sills, and a liftgate spoiler. The enhancing side sills also tie in the gradient pattern and “500e” logo. The unique wheels have a premium painted silver face with black inserts and flush wheel fitments.

Fiat 500e

More than 140 hours of wind-tunnel testing resulted in a 13% aero improvement; this yielded five more miels of range. Some improvements were better front fascia sealing and a different fascia, the flush-profile wheels, streamlined mirror caps, under-car pans, revised side sills and rear fascia, and the spoiler.

There will be three appearance packages; all are available with gray, silver, pearl white, or black paint.

Nero — black front and rear lower dot-matrix patterned fascia accents, with body-color spoiler and mirror caps.

Bianco Perla — with the optional Steam (white) interior, it has tri-coat pearl-white front and rear lower dot-matrix patterned fascia accents,
spoiler, and mirror caps. It is available in the four normal colors or in Electric Orange Tri-coat.

e-Sport — The e-Sport Package adds a “menacing” look to the 2013 Fiat 500e. The e-Sport Package includes blacked-out headlamp, park lamp and tail lamp surrounds in Nero (black), staggered 15-inch aluminum wheels in Nero with Electric Orange Tri-coat accents, and bodyside graphic and matching mirror caps.

The interior is sold in Steam (white) or Nero (black) with Electric Orange accents; the white or black thick-rim steering wheel has a unique Electric Orange leather inner accent. For easier operation, and to keep the driver’s eyes on the road ahead, the steering wheel includes cruise, audio and hands-free controls.

The leatherette seating in white or black ties in the dot-matrix pattern through a two-layer cloth design with accented black or white showing through the gradient, and an Electric Orange accent on the seat cushion and stitching. White seats have electric orange head restraints and door arm rests; black seats are two-tone with white. With built-in storage spaces, including two in the instrument panel, map pockets in the door panels and another below the center console’s shifter bezel, this high-tech Cinquecento can quickly and conveniently store mobile devices and travel gear.

Fiat 500e: electric car specifications

  Fiat 500: Gasoline (US)Fiat 500eChevy Volt (electric)
Horsepower101 hp 111 hp149 hp
Torque98 lb-ft 147 lb-ft273 lb-ft
Gas mileagePremium; 31 city, 40 highway
(manual; 27/34 automatic)
116 MPGe city, 100 MPGe highway98 MPGe combined
Built inToluca (engines from Michigan)Toluca; engines from...? USA
Length90.6” wheelbase; 139.6” length90.6 wheelbase, 142.4 length105.7 wb, 177.1 length
Width x Height64.1 x 59.864.1 x 60.170.4 x 56.6
Ground clearance4.1”4.5”  
Drag coefficient0.332 to 0.362 (Sport)0.3111 
Weight2,363 to 2,434 (Turbo: 2,477)2,980 lb3,781 lb
Front suspensionMacPherson, coil spring, twin tube shocks, stabilizer bar
Rear suspensionTwist-beam axle with coil springs and twin-tube shocks
Tires (Pop, Lounge)185/55R15 (Pop, Lounge)185/55R15  
Front brakes10.1 x .86 vented-rotor11.0 x 0.87 vented-rotor + regenerative 
Rear brakes9.4 x 0.4 solid rotor 9.4 x 0.4 solid rotor 
Swept area, F/R193 / 153 sq in218 sq in / 162 sq in 
Driving range320 miles (based on city cycle)100 miles city, 80 miles combined80 + range extender
Headroom F/R38.9 / 35.638.9 / 37.637.8 / 36.0
Legroom F/R40.7 / 31.740.7 / 27.642.1 / 34.1
EPA interior volume75.6 cubic feet78.6 cubic feet90.3 cubic feet
Trunk9.5 cubic feet7.0 cubic feet10.6 cubic feet

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