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The Real Italian Job

By EV World Staff

The 2003 Hollywood remake of 'The Italian Job' heist flick used a trio of BWM Minis to hijack a load of gold bars. Now any future film producer could opt for 'real' Italian mini-cars, this time they would be electric-powered.

Italian carmaker Fiat has mastered the job of building city-friendly cars for Europe: the retro-redesigned 500 being the most recognized example of the genre, at least in North America. Based on the iconic ‘50’s ‘Cinquecento’, of which more than 3.8 million were built between 1957-1975, the new 500 came to life as the Italian answer to the newly restyled Mini, which BMW acquired from the Rover Group in England.

It is on the strength of the 500 and the shift back to fun, small, street-smart automobiles with a dash of hip-appeal, that Fiat has returned to North America through its shotgun marriage to Chrysler, arranged by the Obama Administration. So, when it came time for the Auburn Hills, Michigan car company to produce an electric car to comply with California’s re-invigorated ZEV mandate, Chrysler and Fiat decided the 500 was the platform on which to develop its zero emission car.

For its part, prior to the 2009 bankruptcy, the Chrysler ENVI team had adapted, Tesla-like, a Lotus sports car into an electric version. At least two European firms had converted the 500 to electric, one of which ended up in Moammar Gadhafi’s stable in Libya before his ouster and execution. Going with an in-house product made more sense than adapting someone else’s car; so the 500 got drafted for the job.

What the company unveiled in Los Angeles this month is a two-door hatchback that snuggly seats four adults and with careful driving in the city can deliver around 100 miles of range on a 24kWh, 364V lithium-ion battery pack that is, wisely, liquid-cooled and heated. It’s equipped with an 83kw (118 hp) motor that should give it some nice punch; but curiously, Fiat doesn’t give a top speed for the car nor its zero-to-60 acceleration rate. Also missing is the announced price of the car, though we do know that Fiat/Chrysler chief Sergio Marchionne laments that the company will lose $10,000 on every 500e it sells. Its city energy-economy is estimated equivalent of 116 mpg. As seems standard now, it too comes with its own smart phone App. A sales date has yet to be announced. See complete Fiat press release here

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Originally published: 08 Jan 2013

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