All-new electric Fiat 500 to launch at Geneva 2020

An all-new electric Fiat 500 city car, the 500e, will be launched at the Geneva motor show in 2020, the firm has confirmed. 

The car will be sold alongside the existing 500, which will continue to be powered by conventional petrol engines as well as receiving styling and technical updates.

The all-new electric 500 will sit on a bespoke electric car platform, according to Fiat boss Olivier Francois, with the same platform potentially earmarked for use if the the new Panda-inspired Centoventi concept makes production. The electric 500 will be a key part of Fiat’s transformation in Europe into a brand focusing on small electrified city cars.

“The car will stay true to everything you know about the 500, but will be entirely new,” said Francois. “Under the skin it will be radically different, but otherwise you will recognise the size and proportions.

“But it is a big statement, starting our electric path with the 500. We are doing it with that car for reasons of pricing. It is clear that we cannot sell an electric 500 for the same entry price of today’s 500, but what’s clear is that more than half of our 500 customers today do not buy entry-level models. In fact, for them a 24,000 euro price is normal today.

“If you look at our electric competition, they are priced around 32,000 euros. The leap then from 24,000 to 32,000 is not so much, especially if you factor in government grants for electric vehicles.

Francois refused to be drawn on whether the electric 500 could be rear-wheel drive like the original, but said he would be open to the idea. He also said that an electric Abarth model could hold appeal.

The electric car platform that the new 500 will sit on will be FCA Group developed. Francois said he would personally be open to sharing the technology with partners – the 500 platform has previously been shared with the Ford Ka, for instance,  but he stressed that any such decision would have to be made at a Group level.

Fiat also confirmed the new 500 will be joined by a 500 Giardiniera estate, although the firm didn’t say if that would also appear at next year’s Geneva show.

Ahead of the 500e arriving, a mild hybrid variant of the 500 is due to launch later this year.

The aim is to consolidate the brand’s dominance of the city car segment – the 500 and Panda hold a third of this market – while developing technologies that allow these models to satisfy emission regulations. 

This focus also means other, less successful Fiat models are expected to axed. These include the Punto – axed after a 13-year production run – and, while unconfirmed, the Tipo. 

The 500 Giardiniera, which references the tiny wagon of 1960, will offer the best space efficiency in its class, says Fiat, and “unmistakable design”. It too will get electric and mild hybrid variants.

The 500’s new platform architecture can also cope with a mild hybrid system. That unit consists of a belt driven, 12V starter-generator, although little detail has been provided on the electric drivetrain to be used in the 500. Lower-emissions petrol engines will also be offered in the 500 and Panda. 

Francois conceded that the decision to develop the electric cars was driven “both by the desire to create a profitable electric car for our future, and to ensure we avoid the pressures of potential fines if we don’t hit CO2 targets.”

Given the limited space for batteries and the 500’s urban appeal, range of the 500e is likely to be less than EVs such as the Nissan Leaf, which offers around 250 miles.

The 500e will be a rival to a growing number of small EVs – Mini’s first series-production electric car is due in 2019, at the same time as the Honda Urban EV. 

The 500e will be one of four electric powertrains offered by FCA. It will sit use a ‘City Car’ powertrain, while a ‘Mainstream’ powertrain will be launched in the Jeep Grand Commander. A ‘Performance’ powertrain will feature in the 2020 Maserati Alfieri and a ‘Premium’ EV powertrain will power the 2022 Maserati Quattroporte. 

The push for electrification comes amid Fiat Chrysler’s abandonment of diesel; by 2022, there will be no diesel options in the FCA catalogue. These will be replaced by numerous hybrids, both full and plug-in, the first of which will be the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, landing in 2020. 

The production capacity released by the deletion of the Punto and other unspecified Fiat models – such as Tipo – will be used to build more Alfa Romeos and Maseratis, whose premium prices can withstand the electrification costs. Some Italian capacity will be used to build some plug-in hybrid models, including certain Jeeps for global sale.

Additional reporting by Jim Holder and Richard Bremner

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