Is the All-Electric Fiat 500e Really a Road-Worthy Car?

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2013 Fiat 500e Exterior

Are you seeking an electric car and don’t know what to do? You’ve got two options, really. Go for a big production model like Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, Ford Focus Electric or the coming-this-summer 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV. Or, you go for the one-off model car companies must manufacture to meet environmental regulations. (No, I am not kidding.) One of these cool EV wonders is the brand new 2013 Fiat 500e.

Unfortunately, the Fiat 500e is only available in California. So, if you live in California and you are seeking a true green car, then this is this is the story for you. If you are an EV enthusiast, then read on to discover why Fiat has actually delivered a fun-to-drive zero emissions ride that may be available in your state soon.

Perhaps the best thing about the 2013 Fiat 500e is its EPA-rated “industry-best 108 mpg highway rating,” Fiat and its U.S. conquest Chrysler – a dynamic Amero-Italian car company duo — also claims its tiny 500e can go 87 miles until it stops and needs a battery refill. The EPA-estimated annual fuel costs of the 2013 Fiat 500e is just $500, which Chrysler has labeled “unsurpassed frugality.”

Chrysler says this “estimate is calculated by factoring electricity price projections into 15,000 miles of travel at a vehicle’s combined city/highway performance rating. The Fiat 500e has a 116-MPGe city/highway rating; its city-cycle rating is 122 MPGe.” Bravo Fiat!

So, you want awesome fuel efficiency? It looks like the 2013 Fiat 500e could be the best choice possible on California’s roads so far. But what about performance, design and safety? And what about fast charging?

2013 Fiat 500e Booty

EV Car Paradise?

This female automotive journalist lives in car paradise. Every car is worshipped in coastal Orange County from vintage VW vans to the neighbor’s new Tesla to a racing car tucked away inside a old mechanic’s garage. There’s a Fiat dealer down the road a couple of miles and you don’t see that every day. As a professional road test reviewer, I’ve driven a fair amount of Fiat 500s in my day. The Italians call her cinquecento. Or just five hundred.

Performance: Although I have not test driven the Fiat 500e, I have read a lot of my auto colleague’s reviews about them. I get it. They love the no-gears electric drive on this already fun-to-drive minicar. Could driving around in a smooth-riding Fiat make me smile every day? Oh yes, please!

2013 Fiat 500e Interior

Interior: Again, I’ve road tested several Fiat 500s and each vehicle has surprised me with its minimalist Italian design as well as the fun and funky details. I was also always impressed with Fiat’s build quality and the luxury feel of the design and materials. The seats are plush and just a bit bouncy as you’d expect from a 40s- and 50-s inspired minicar. Plus, there’s more than enough room for small- to medium-sized shopping trips.

Charging: Thanks to reader Sean Simmen for correcting my first assumption that the Fiat 500e is a cool vehicle for long road trips. It’s not. In fact, it takes about 24 hours to charge the 500e with a three-pronged outlet (known as stage one). For $1,000 (plus the cost of a professional electrician), install a 240-volt (or stage two) outlet. There’s also more expensive “quick chargers” that can supposedly charge up such an EV at 80 percent in just 30 minutes. Also called fast chargers, this much-needed EV infrastructure technology is starting to pop up in EV enthusiast garages, city parking lots and even hotels.

Need more ammunition to even consider buying a toy EV? Chrysler says “the Fiat 500 has earned more than 80 international awards, including being named the 2008 European Car of the Year, 2009 World Car Design of the Year and Best New Engine of 2010 (Fiat MultiAir® Turbo). In the U.S., the 2012 Fiat 500 was named “Best Buy” in the subcompact category by Consumers Digest and was deemed a “Top Safety Pick” by the influential Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The 2013 model also is an IIHS Top Safety Pick.”

For this green car lover, the 2013 Fiat 500e sounds like a winner with its top notch fuel efficiency, fuel savings, hot performance, quality build, top safety marks, comfortable interior and eye-catching design.