Next-generation Fiat 500 goes electric
The modern versions of the Mini (Cooper) and Fiat 500 have been competing with each other in the city-car segment for over a decade with ICE (internal combustion engine)-powered models. But recently, both companies have revealed battery-powered versions of those cars, which will see the duo compete on a new playing field, with a potentially new customer base.
In the case of the Fiat 500, the fully electric car from parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is the third generation of the updated iconic Italian city car. Range and charging times were a key consideration for the engineering team, and the new 500 comes complete with an 85-kW fast charger and a 43-kW·h lithium ion battery pack.
From a performance point of view, the electric motor puts out 87 kW, providing a maximum speed of 93 mph (150 km/h) and a 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) time of 9 s. The power pack provides a range of up to 199 mi (320 km) on the WLTP (Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure) and—via the fast-charger—an energy reserve of up to 30 mi (48 km) can be restored in just 5 min.
Three driving modes are available: Normal, Range, and Sherpa.
In Sherpa mode, the goal is to maximize efficiency on a given route to the nearest charging station or navigation system destination. Fiat likens it to a Himalayan Sherpa, who is in charge of an expedition and is the guide to the destination. Various parameters are adjusted: maximum speed is limited to 50 mph (80 km/h); accelerator response is managed to reduce energy consumption; and the climate control system and heated seats are deactivated.
Range mode activates the one-pedal-drive function. The accelerator is used in normal driving from a standstill, but when it is released there is a higher degree of regenerative braking to replicate the brake pedal. Under these circumstances the brake pedal must be used to bring the car to a complete stop, but Fiat engineers say that with daily use and a little experience, it is possible to drive using just the accelerator pedal nearly all the time.
Finally, Normal mode is designed to replicate—as closely as possible—the experience of driving a combustion-engine vehicle.
The 500 comes equipped with Level 2 automated driving and new connectivity options.
The car is fitted with ADAS (advanced driving assistance system) features such as a front-facing camera that monitors all areas of the car; intelligent adaptive cruise control (iACC); lane centering; intelligent speed assist; urban blind spot; attention assist; and 360° sensors that provide a drone-like view to avoid obstacles when parking or performing complex maneuvers.
The car sees the first deployment of FCA’s UConnect 5 infotainment system—a connected platform that has been designed for future connectivity demands. Compatible with Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto operating systems, UConnect 5 is combined with the car’s telematics system to provide numerous services such as an emergency call capability; remote checking of location, climate control, battery charge levels, and schedules of the car via smartphone; destination setting and weather and traffic checks via an App; and an assistance system that tracks the car in the event of theft.
The system also provides a Wi-Fi hotspot that can connect up to eight devices to the network at the same time as well as the ability to check the condition of the car, including factors such as tire pressure and service schedules.
A further variation to the norm with electric vehicles is the 500’s acoustic warning for pedestrians when the car is travelling at speeds of up to 12 mph (19 km/h). Instead of a traditional tone, the Italians have chosen the music of Amarcord to indicate its location.
As well as the use of public charging stations, Fiat is encouraging home charging of the new car with the introduction of the Easy Wallbox system.
Developed for FCA by Engie EPS, the ‘plug-and-charge’ solution can be managed via Bluetooth and offers up to 3 kW of charging power without the need for professional installation.
The wallbox can also be upgraded to 7.4 kW, providing a full charge at home in just over 6 h. The car also comes with a Mode 3 cable for charging at up to 11 kW from a public charge point.