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Electric Fiat 500 for the United States

by DrivingEnthusiast

This announcement shouldn’t be a surprise for anybody, but it is overdue. Overdue because before Chrysler got “associated” with Fiat they had shown an entire line of electrics – all of which have since disappeared from the plans.  No more – the strategy changed and this is the result. Parent Fiat benefits, too, and will undoubtedly sell this in Europe as well.

Nothing really here for driving enthusiasts – however, this is the start of a process of electrification that will touch nearly every car line that we would consider. We have already seen, for example, a hybrid electric powertrain for the Nissan/Infiniti FM platform – which includes the Z. It will appear first on the new M later this year. While a hybrid Z probably isn’t in the immediate product pipeline, it could be, if  the market continues to grow and if it is a success in the Infiniti line. And it’s the only way the Z is ever going to get a significant HP and torque boost – there won’t ever be a V-8 Z.

Same strategy for Fiat – no doubt the technology here is the first appearance of basic parts that will be offered across the new small car line – on platforms supplied by Fiat, engineered here in North America for Chrysler brands, Fiat, and Alfa.

And don’t forget that electric motors make 100% of their torque from 1 RPM upwards. These are torque monsters. As the technology is developed, further these will be great for street “enthusiast” driving, and especially autocross. The little Fiat 500 could even end up with a 50/50 weight balance due to the placement of the battery pack i the back. Note that this was the weight balance of the fully Electric Focus briefly used on Jay Leno’s show, and which other than a suspension tune was literally built on a prototype platform for the upcoming 2012 all-electric Focus)

It’s a brave new world, and ready or not it’s coming. Will driving enthusiasts embrace it, master it, and eventually even modify it? Of course – we always have. Sometimes kicking and screaming. Remember the fight over port fuel injection on the ’86 Mustang GT?  Some entrenched enthusiasts claimed at the time that it was the end of everything… but a year later nobody in their right mind would take it any other way. And an entirely new aftermarket was born – the largest one ever.

Chrysler Press release follows:

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Chrysler Group LLC to Develop New Fiat 500 Electric Vehicle for the United States 

New Fiat 500EV demonstrates benefits of Chrysler Group and Fiat Group alliance Zero-emission Fiat 500EV provides an environmentally friendly, clean, quiet driving experience freeing customers from escalating fuel costs and costly oil changes Department of Energy provides up to $48 million grant toward test fleet of 140 Ram Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles PHEV technology to improve fuel economy up to 65 percent with up to 20 mile electric-only driving range

Auburn Hills, Mich., Mar 22, 2010  – 

Chrysler Group LLC today announced its plans to engineer and produce a pure electric vehicle using the Fiat 500 platform. Shown earlier this year at the 2010 North American International Auto Show, the Fiat 500EV demonstrates the immediate benefits of the alliance between Chrysler Group and the Fiat Group as well as the speed at which the two companies can work together on advanced vehicle programs.

“The alliance with Fiat presented new opportunities to merge Chrysler Group engineering knowledge with new platforms and the Fiat 500EV is an outstanding example of our efforts,” said Scott Kunselman, Senior Vice President Engineering–Chrysler Group LLC. “The Fiat 500 is a small, lightweight platform perfect for integrating electric-vehicle technology.”

The Fiat 500EV powertrain is comprised of three main systems; high power electric powertrain module, advance lithium ion battery, and an EV control unit to manage power flows. Beginning in 2012, Chrysler Group will manufacture the Fiat 500EV for the United States market. All powertrain engineering and vehicle development will take place at Chrysler Group headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich. Pricing will be announced closer to launch, but will be competitive with similar electric vehicles in the market.

Chrysler Group is the vehicle electrification center of competence for both Chrysler Group and Fiat Group. The company is exploring ways to promote zero-emission transportation and the development of an electric-vehicle charging infrastructure through partnerships to be announced in the future.

Last year Chrysler Group announced the company’s intention to build the Fiat 500 with a combustion engine for North America. The vehicle will debut in late 2010.

Ram Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

Chrysler Group has been selected for a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant of up to $48 million as part of a $2.4 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act DOE Vehicle Electrification program. Chrysler Group is planning to build a total of 140 Ram PHEVs for a three-year demonstration project that includes various geographic and climatic locations across the United States.

“This initiative represents how government, automotive industry, suppliers and key partners are reaching common goals and demonstrates how rapidly this type of advanced technology can be brought to market,” said Paolo Ferrero, Senior Vice President–Powertrain, Chrysler Group LLC. “DOE-support for domestic advanced technology is an important enabler for Chrysler Group and its key suppliers in order to understand and test customer acceptance and the capability of PHEV systems in a variety of real-world conditions.”

The Ram PHEV features Chrysler Group’s 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 with a two mode hybrid transmission and a 12KwHr lithium ion battery. The vehicle is capable of up to 20 miles of zero-emission, pure-electric range without the need for gasoline. An overall fuel economy improvement more than 65 percent is expected for average drive cycles. Chrysler Group has partnered with Electrovaya Inc. to supply the advanced lithium Ion batteries for the Ram PHEV test fleet.

The DOE grant will expedite the development of vehicle-electrification technology. More than 21 Chrysler Group partners across the U.S., including utility companies, government agencies and Universities will independently test the Ram PHEV and provide valuable data for the advancement of the technology.

In 2008, Chrysler Group announced the company’s intention to bring a Ram Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) to market. 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.

Chrysler Group’s alliance with Fiat Group brings new platforms and technologies that allow the company to create an improved long-term product strategy with greater fuel efficiency and reduced emissions. Chrysler Group’s five-year plan has an uncompromising product schedule, including a progressive vehicle electrification strategy.

About Chrysler Group LLC

Headquartered in Auburn Hills, Mich., Chrysler Group LLC’s product lineup features some of the world’s most recognizable vehicles, including the Chrysler 300, Jeep Wrangler and Ram Truck. Fiat will contribute world-class technology, platforms and powertrains for small- and medium-sized cars, allowing Chrysler Group to offer an expanded product line including environmentally friendly vehicles.