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First look: Fiat electrifies 500

Short circuit: The Fiat 500 BEV concept is the Italian giant's trial run at an electric vehicle.

Fiat employs Chrysler EV technology to produce the 500 BEV electric concept

19 Jan 2010

THE Fiat Group was not an official exhibitor at last week’s Detroit motor show, but that didn’t stop the Italian maker showing an all-electric version of its diminutive 500 micro-hatch alongside the Chrysler-badged Lancia Delta, which should eventually grace Australian Chrysler showrooms.

While the Fiat 500 BEV is at this stage only a concept, it appeared at Detroit alongside the piping-hot 500 Abarth, which is slated for release here simultaneously with the Punto Abarth later this year.

Looking somewhat less extroverted than the soft-topped 500C convertible, first local deliveries of which will commence in two weeks, the 500 BEV employs the modular electric drive system being developed for small and mid-size models by Chrysler, in which Fiat holds a controlling 20 per cent stake.

Based on what is already one of the most fuel-efficient models on the market, the 500 BEV is Fiat’s direct response to forthcoming EVs like the Mitsubishi i-MiEV-based Citroen C-Zero and Peugeot iOn, orders for which are now being taken ahead of a late-2010 launch in Europe.

No technical details are available for the zero-emissions four-seater EV, but Fiat says the 500 BEV is designed to investigate the packaging of an electric powertrain in a smaller vehicle, as a test-bed for future EV models – presumably for Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Lancia, as well as Chrysler, Dodge and, perhaps, Jeep.

Apart from signalling its commitment to sustainable motoring, the 500 BEV is also designed to establish momentum for the launch of the 500 in North America later this year.

To be produced in Mexico, America’s 500 range will be kicked off by an entry-level version powered by a naturally aspirated 1.4-litre petrol engine to be produced in Michigan, and topped by the 500 Abarth 1.4 turbo.

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