FIAT 500e All-Electric Vehicle (2015 Model Review)

Written By: Brittney B. 

Edited By: Assen Gueorguiev

                                                         2015 fiat 500e all-electric

When an automaker's CEO actually asks drivers not to buy a car, it usually isn't a good sign. However, Sergio Marchionne's public warning in May 2014 had nothing to do with the quality of the Fiat 500e and everything to do with its high production costs. Although this all-electric model costs almost twice as much as its all-gasoline counterpart, Fiat Chrysler still loses money on every model sold. Luckily, they continue to produce it for the same reason they engineered it in the first place: to comply with California's clean-air requirements. And as of September 2014, it's now available in Oregon too.

As Fiat's first all-electric vehicle, the 500e is a groundbreaking vehicle for the Italian automaker (even if it isn't a moneymaker). First introduced as a prototype at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show, the 500e is nearly identical to the Fiat 500, which hasn't changed much since its 2007 re-launch. Beneath the surface, however, the 500e is full of eco-friendly innovations that make it greener, lighter and easier to handle.

Aerodynamic additions include a rear spoiler, wider sides, new front and rear fascias and alloy wheels, all of which improve its handling and torque over the original 500. And at 116 MPGe, the 2015 Fiat 500e is also slightly more efficient than the all-electric Nissan Leaf and significantly more efficient than the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt. However, it's also much smaller than other electric vehicles in its class, and that's especially noticeable when you climb inside the car. Minimal head and leg room mean this "four-seater" is really a two-seater for most drivers, and high bucket seats, bulky dashboard controls and a big battery pack in back don't help.

Of course, if you don't have kids and you're planning to make short commutes through city streets, the 500e is hard to beat. Its range and charging time are more than sufficient for city drivers, and it's lightweight enough to take curves and hills with ease. It will also shrink your carbon footprint and eliminate your gas station trips, off-setting its purchase price with both tax credits and daily cost-to-own savings.

2015 Fiat 500e All-Electric


Environmental Footprint

The Automotive Science Group (ASG) didn't rank the Fiat 500e among its top 25 choices for environmental performance in 2014, but it's getting honors elsewhere. According to estimates by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fiat 500e consumes just 29 kWh for every 100 miles, giving it a competitive combined MPGe of 116. And in September 2014, Fiat was one of only three automakers to make the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. Its 87/100 ranking included top scores for climate change strategies and environmental policies.


Rumor Has It

Fiat loses $14,000 on each Fiat 500e, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll ditch the idea any time soon. By 2025, 15 percent of all cars sold in California will be low-emission or zero-emission vehicles, and until then, the state is rewarding consumers and manufacturers alike with sizable tax credits and refunds. Fiat knows that environmental regulations are here to stay, and now that Tesla is finally posting profits for its all-electric luxury vehicles (and Nissan is making money on the consumer-class, all-electric Leaf), there's more pressure than ever to design a profitable electric vehicle.

If Fiat wants to turn the 500e into a money-maker, they'll have to figure out how to produce it on a much larger scale and get drivers to pay more for it. An upscale redesign might help, and that's exactly what the 2016 Fiat 500 is getting, but insiders still aren't sure if that model will even have an all-electric counterpart. If it does, a longer, wider exterior and more luxurious interior won't be enough. The Fiat 500e will also need a smaller, cheaper battery, slightly better range for long-distance drivers, and more horsepower (it's currently 111). Unless the technology is there, the 2015 Fiat 500e might be the last of its kind... for now.


Manufacturing/Assembly

Although it's manufactured by an Italian automaker and available exclusively in California and Oregon, the 2015 Fiat 500e is actually produced in Toluca, Mexico, with some components coming from its assembly plant in Tychy, Poland.


FIVE things that Fiat 500e owners LOVE about their car:

  • Fully charges in just four hours (at 240 V outlets)

  • Accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in less than 9 seconds

  • Produces zero emissions, qualifying drivers for federal and state tax credits

  • Includes aerodynamic features to reduce drag and noise

  • Has a reported range of up to 100 miles (official range is 87 miles)


FIVE things that Fiat 500e owners DISLIKE about their car:

  • Limited cargo space and almost no rear leg room, thanks in part to a bulky battery pack

  • Interior with hard plastic details and clunky, oddly placed radio controls

  • Rate of acceleration declines as it approaches highway speeds

  • Lithium-ion battery is expensive to replace

  • Very limited availability