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Fiat 500e
Credit: Fiat https://media.fcanorthamerica.com/image-gallery.do?method=adhoc&mid=&imageIds=,51641,51642,51640,51643

Cars

Honda Cancels Battery Electric Clarity, Fiat Unveils All New 500e

Honda has stopped making the Clarity Electric and Fiat is thinking not bringing its all new 500e electric to the US as sedan sales continue to crater.

There is good news and bad news for EV fans this week. First the bad news. Honda stopped production of the battery electric version of its Clarity sedan at the end of last year due to poor sales. CleanTechnica’s Kyle Field reviewed the Clarity Electric in 2018 and found much to like about the car — except for its limited range. The Clarity Electric can only go about 89 miles on a single charge — similar to a first generation Nissan LEAF. It was available only in California and a few other states and drivers could only lease one, much like the original EV1 from General Motors.

Honda Clarity

Image credit: Honda

The Clarity drivetrain came in three different flavors — a hydrogen powered fuel cell car, a plug-in hybrid, or the battery only version. I spent a week with the PHEV version and found the car quite delightful. Several CleanTechnica readers purchased one and reported they were pleased with the car. But the numbers just didn’t add up. In 2019, Honda sold 11,654 Clarities, down over 40% from the prior years.

USA Today claims the problem is Americans don’t like small sedans, but that isn’t quite accurate. The Clarity has a generous cabin with lots of room for 5 passengers. In fact, driving one feels like piloting a limousine, there is so much room inside. Americans just don’t seem to want any sedans, period, which is why Volkswagen won’t sell its new ID.3 electric sedan in the US. The fuel cell and plug-in versions of the Clarity will soldier on for a while, but for how long remains an open question. Declining sales usually are the death knell for any model.

Fiat 500e

Fiat 500e

Image credit: Fiat

At the other end of the electric car spectrum is the all new, third generation Fiat 500 electric car, known as the 500e. Scheduled to be revealed at the Geneva auto show last week, the unveiling was moved to Milan after the Geneva show was cancelled due to concerns about the coronavirus. It turns out Milan is ground zero for the virus in Italy. Go figure.

The original Fiat 500 traces its routes back to postwar Italy. It was a minuscule transportation device barely able to carry two passengers, powered by a tiny 500 cc gasoline engine. But it was cute in a minimalist sort of way, cheap, and (somewhat) reliable, and Fiat sold flotillas of them. Fiat revived the 500 in 2006 and created a battery electric version that was a disaster for the company. This is the car former CEO Sergio Marchionne begged people not to buy because the company lost so much money on each one. It was a California compliance car, with all that implies.

Fiat 500e

Image credit: Fiat

The curtain falls and time passes, as it does on all things. Now Fiat is back with a third generation 500, known in Italian as the Cinquocuento, and an all new electric version designed from the get-go for battery power. It features a 42 kWh battery and an 85 kW charger. Range is said to be up to 320 kilometers.

Each car comes with a Bluetooth connected Easy Wallbox home charging system that can be plugged in to a normal home power outlet. (Household current in Italy is 220 volts). The company says 30 kilometers of range can be added in 5 minutes or an 80% charge in half and hour, according to a report by Gulf News. 0-100 km/h takes about 9 seconds, which may seem leisurely to those of you who drive a Tesla Model S P1ooD, but is about 5 times faster than the original, whose acceleration was measured in furlongs per fortnight.

Prices have not been released at this time and the company says it is evaluating whether to offer the new EV for sale in the US. If Honda is right and Americans are simply uninterested in sedans of any size or description, Fiat might just as well not bother.

 
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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we listened?

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