An electric Fiat 500 and plug-in hybrid Ram are in development
Fiat-Chrysler announced that the company will build an all-electric car based off the Fiat 500 by 2012 and a plug-in hybrid Ram by 2011. The Fiat 500EV was revealed earlier this year at the North American International Auto Show, but details are still scarce on the car. What is known is that the 500EV is co-developed by Chrysler and Fiat. The engineering work will be done at the Chrysler Group headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan and not in Italy.
The 500EV will run off a lithium ion battery, but the current range is unknown. It’s possible for the 500EV to have a range of 60-100 miles. Last year a Swedish company named Adapt converted Fiat 500′s to electric. The company claimed an almost 125 mile range for their Fiat 500 conversions. Unfortunately the electric 500′s Adapt produced cost almost $50,000.
Chrysler has said the 500EV will be priced competitively for an electric vehicle of its size. The 500EV will likely be in the same price range as Nissan’s Leaf, which will have similar specs. Pricing will be withheld until the car comes closer to production.
Chrysler’s plug-in hybrid Ram is made possible by a $48 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. Unfortunately only 140 of the plug-in Ram’s will be built as part of a three-year demonstration project. The truck will be powered by a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 and a 12KwHr lithium ion battery. The vehicle will go 20 miles on electric power before the gas engine turns on. Chrysler claims this will equate to a 65 percent fuel economy improvement for the average “drive cycle.”
The hybrid Ram was planned for 2011 but has been canceled. Chrysler said, “After closely evaluating the response to hybrid pickups in the marketplace, the company could not formulate an appropriate business case and has decided to cancel development work on the 2011 Ram HEV.”
It’s great to see Chrysler Group LLC get into the electric game, but the U.S. taxpayer will still have to foot part of the bill. The $48 million grant will help Chrysler develop plug-in hybrid vehicles in the future, but it’s disappointing to see the company funnel the money into a truck. Each of those 140 plug-in Rams will indirectly cost tax payers $340,000 to produce. Perhaps the money would of been better spent to help develop a Chevy Volt competitor? Demonstrating a test fleet of plug-in hybrids in 2011 is too little, too late.
Fiat-Chrysler’s plan to produce a Electric 500 is a better idea than what Chrysler planned on doing a year ago. The Lotus based Dodge Circuit would of been priced far too high. The 500EV is a realistic option that consumers might actually be able to afford. (After a $7,500 tax credit.)