Ready to roll down Electric Avenue - at least in the state of California - sometime during the second quarter of next year, the 2013 Fiat 500e made its first public debut in Los Angeles. This zero-emissions version of the Fiat 500 Coupe is powered by an "e-Drive" system that consists of a permanent-magnet, three-phase AC electric motor that develops 111-horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque, a 24kWh liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack positioned low in the floor and a sophisticated power management control system.
Shipping motive force to the front wheels via a button-activated single-speed transmission, the Fiat e-Drive system gives the new 500e estimated economy numbers of greater than 116 MPGe in the city, more than 100 MPGe on the highway and over 108 MPGe combined -- projected stats the automaker says will translate into about 80 miles of per-charge range in normal operation and closer to 100 miles in a pure-city regimen. When it does come time to replenish, an e-refill will take less than 4 hours on a 240V Level 2 charger or under 24 hours using a conventional 120V wall outlet. Top speed on the 500e is an estimated 85 mph, and like all EVs, it also incorporates an efficient regenerative braking system.
To help in its range-maxing quest, the Fiat 500e benefits from a number of exterior modifications that its designers say meld wind-tunnel-derived aero-optimizing changes with "retro-futuristic" visual cues that recall themes current when the original Cinquecento debuted back in the 1960s. While the car remains unmistakably a 500, restyled front/rear fascias, underbelly fairings, bespoke side sills, mirror caps and wind-cheating 15-inch flush-profile alloy wheels wrapped in low-rolling resistance tire plus a unique rear spoiler help improve aero count by 13 percent over a standard 500 Lounge Coupe, dropping its coefficient of drag to 0.311 and extending per-charge range by nearly five miles. Less visible, but no less critical, is a reinforced unit body structure with 10 percent better bending stiffness and numerous other noise-abatement changes that help reduce noise levels in the passenger compartment.
Lined in leatherette and cloth, the cabin of the new Fiat 500e offers room for four and displays a similar "retro-futuristic" styling flair that embodies several unique design elements. Topping the list is a new 7.0-inch thin-film transistor display that provides the driver with a variety of EV-specific real-time data screens, an Alpine premium audio system, TomTom Navigation with Blue&Me Handsfree Communication technology and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. There's also a dedicated smartphone app that offers both on-board and remote functionality and includes three years of connected services.
Pricing for the 2013 Fiat 500e will be announced closer to its on-sale date.