The Fiat 500e is one of a growing number of "compliance specials," or electric vehicles designed primarily to satisfy California's mandate that 15.4 percent of new cars sold within its borders be electric, plug-in hybrid or hydrogen powered by 2025. Sold exclusively in the golden state, the 500e is actually more powerful than the standard, gas-powered 500 on which it is based, although it is limited to an 87-to-100-mile range.
While the standard Cinquecento makes due with 101 horsepower and 98 lb-ft of torque, the 500e's electric motor sends 111 ponies and 149 lb-ft of twist to the front wheels through a single-speed automatic transmission. A lithium-ion battery housed under the floor helps improve the weight distribution to 57/43-percent front/rear (compared to the 500's 64/36) and provides an EPA-rated combined city/highway range of 87 miles. In city driving, Fiat says the car can travel up to 100 miles on a single charge.
In terms of efficiency, the 500e is good for 122 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) in the city, 108 MPGe on the highway and 116 MPGe combined.
When the battery is fully depleted, recharging takes four hours with a 240v charger and a full 24 hours with a standard 120v household outlet.
Fuel efficiency is estimated at 116 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) in the city and 100 MPGe on the highway, although the Environmental Protection Agency has yet to release its official ratings for the car.
Outside, the 500e is fitted with a model-specific front air dam, side skirts borrowed from the potent Abarth and a host of subtle aerodynamics optimizing changes that help trim the coefficient of drag from .36 to .31. Underneath the changes, the Italian-chic, retro-cute shape of the 500 carries over.
The interior features special acoustic glass, noise-reducing pads and number of other measures to keep noise levels down, but perhaps biggest difference from the gas-powered 500 in the cabin is a unique seven-inch TFT screen that displays battery info and range details in addition to general vehicle information.
In other respects, the interior is standard 500 fare, meaning it features a stylish, contrasting-color dashboard, an upright seating position and rear "seats" best left to extremely small children and cargo.
Standard and Optional Features
The 500e comes standard with a six-speaker, 276-watt AM/FM/CD/SiriusXM stereo system with USB and AUX inputs, a TomTom navigation unit with a 4.3-inch touchscreen display, a rear park assist system, automatic climate control, power windows and locks, keyless entry, heated front seats and 15-inch cast-aluminum wheels.
An available e-Sport package adds what Fiat calls "high-voltage" look, including blacked-out exterior trim, "Nero" leatherette upholstery and uniquely finished cast-aluminum wheels with Electrico Arancione Perla accents to match the wild available exterior color.
All 500e models are fitted with dual front, front side, front knee and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems, brake assist and a tire-pressure monitoring system.
Live in California? Looking for an electric vehicle? Alternatives to the 500e include the tiny smart fortwo electric drive, the spacious Honda Fit EV, the stylish Ford Focus Electric and proven Nissan Leaf. Those seeking an especially roomy zero-emissions ride can check out the Toyota RAV4 EV.