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Fiat Puts The 500e Front & Center At The 2015 LA Auto Show (+ Test Drive Review)

Fiat took its usual fun aesthetics to the next level at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show by decking out two of its electric Fiat 500es. While the car already comes in a variety of options and has been advertised with the slogan “Ugliness is the worst form of pollution,” Fiat’s new campaign for the car takes that sentiment to an unexpected audience — the geeks.

FCA — or Fiat Chrysler Automobiles — partnered with Lucasfilms to “awaken the force” within its 500e. News of what seems to be an inevitable increase in range as a result of awakening this “force” has yet to be shared, but having grown up on movies from the famous Star Wars franchise, I can only assume that the awakening would result in a range increase of at least 50%.

IMG_20151119_130706

On a serious note, Fiat put some effort into its 500e display and had several on display in fun colors, wraps, and configurations, which cannot be said for everyone making EVs. Here are the geeky details on Fiat’s dark side creation from the press release:

“The exterior livery of the Fiat 500e stormtrooper is inspired by the armor of the First Order Legion, with a two-tone black and white custom painting of the car body. The windshield and the side windows are wrapped to bring out the immediately recognizable visor and helmet of the First Order stormtrooper. Inside, everything is in black and white, too, with total custom front and rear seats upholstered in leather and Alcantara®. The dashboard is painted in white and it is enriched by the “Star Wars” logo on it. All the details are painted in white/black lacquer, and a First Order insignia can be found on the two-tone leather-wrapped steering wheel. Much like the stormtrooper armor itself, the Fiat 500e brings together modern technology and functionality, but with an added classic Italian design, making it the perfect vehicle to take on the galaxy in style. The Fiat 500e stormtrooper was created by Garage Italia Customs.”

Digging deeper into the announcement, I have to wonder if, given Fiat’s vocal opposition to being forced to sell a compliance car EV in California, it is somehow conspiring against the inevitable in this partnership with the dark side. Anyone want to put some money on some Koch brothers influence in the design? Maybe the dark side 500e actually gets worse range… now I’m concerned.

Fiat also showcased one of its signature orange 500es, which seemed to be lowered. I’m not clear if that was the case or not but it allowed buyers to see what it looked like without all the fun branding. It seemed like Fiat really did make an effort to show off these fun little cars at the show, which sits in awkward contrast to its typical posture towards them.

IMG_20151119_130923

Test Drive

Fiat also had them outside for test drives, which I jumped on. I was able to take a pretty little baby blue 500e out for a spin around downtown Los Angeles. For a $33,000+ car, I was underwhelmed at the experience. While the cars aesthetics may appeal to some buyers, it’s just not to my tastes. It just looks odd to me, and while it does have some of the pep in the pedal that I’ve become accustomed to in EVs, it definitely wasn’t anything special. I would say it was about the same as the Leaf I own — maybe even a bit less responsive.

Getting into the car, the first thing I noticed was that it was smaller than my Leaf — though, in all honesty, that helps with the cute image of the car, which may be a positive for some buyers. For me at 6’2″, I was less than impressed. It’s not that it felt cramped inside, everything just felt closer… and smaller, to the point of sacrificing function for form. The rear boot is a good example of this tradeoff, with barely enough room for a piece of small luggage and a backpack. I couldn’t imagine packing my wife and 2 kids up in it for a trip to the grocery store let alone a weekend trip to the in-laws.

The interior of the car was tastefully retro with modern buttons integrated in. I personally prefer a bit more tech than this car sported but it seemed to get the job done with minimal fuss. Along the lines of the bare bones nature of the car, it also only offers regular charging — no DC fast charging with this puppy. This won’t be an issue for day-to-day commuting but will make it difficult to do much more beyond that.

Overall, I could see the 500e being a good fit for someone looking for an EV to cover the daily commute and errands around town. It’s not well suited for trips longer than 80 miles round-trip unless you are willing to sit by for a few hours to let it charge up at some public Level 2 charging stations.

 
 
 
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Written By

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in Tesla, Lightning eMotors, Arcimoto, and SolarEdge.

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