2013 Fiat 500e: 100% electric, but only for California

Chrysler decides to build a fully electric Fiat 500, spends plenty of money developing it, and then sells it exclusively in the state of California. Why?

CHELSEA (Michigan) – We got the opportunity to try out the 2013 Fiat 500e at Chrysler's Chelsea Proving Grounds, and we had quite an amusing time behind the wheel. However, we're saddened that this version of the cheeky Italian hatchback is forbidden to the Canadian market.

We'll guess that this car is only the beginning of a new project for Chrysler, and that someday in the near future, we'll be seeing a broader range of EVs from them. Actually, a simple hybrid would be welcome in a product portfolio filled with trucks and HEMI V8 engines.

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The clean powertrain
The 2013 Fiat 500e is equipped with an electric motor provided by Bosch as well as a battery pack that provides a range of about 160 km. By plugging the car into a 220-volt outlet, it can be fully charged in only four hours.

With 111 horsepower and a generous 147 lb-ft of torque, the 500e performs surprisingly well; it accelerates almost as swiftly as the 135-hp Fiat 500 Turbo. And by converting the car to electric propulsion, its weight distribution has actually been improved, so the 500e is better balanced and handles well despite the general weight increase.

Distinctive appearance
Fiat also revised the car's looks by installing unique front bumper design, side stripes and alloy wheels. The 500e is available in five colours, including Electric Orange which isn't offered on any other Fiat. According to the manufacturer, the electric Fiat is 13% more aerodynamic than the conventional model.

On the other hand, the cockpit looks pretty much the same as the one found in gasoline-powered versions of the 2013 Fiat 500. You do get to choose between white or black for the upholstery, the dash and the door panels, and orange striping is included with both. The only real clue that this isn't a run-of-the-mill Fiat is that the shift lever is replaced by buttons. The cabin is obviously quiet at speed with the electric motor, but surprisingly free of road and chassis noise.

Forbidden fruit
The biggest shortcoming of this Italian electric delight is that you can't get one unless you live in the Golden State. The 2013 Fiat 500e is priced at $31,800 USD, but those lucky Californians get lease one over 36 months for only $199 USD a month with a $999 down payment. That's pretty affordable.

So why did Chrysler put so much effort into making the 500e such a great little EV, and then only sell it in one U.S. state with low lease payments? Like we said earlier, it's a crying shame.

However, we do believe this project has the potential to be popular in more than one southern state, and in the three biggest provinces, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. For now it remains tasty forbidden fruit.

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