Italian automaker Fiat, back in the United States after a 27-year absence (and now owner of resurgent U.S. automaker Chrysler), launched its new 500 minicar for 2012. Now comes this surprisingly likeable 2013 500e electric version. Available only in California at first, it boasts smile-inducing performance from its 111-horsepower electric motor and a best-in-class 87-mile EPA-estimated city/highway combined range from its 24 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. It can be recharged in less than 4 hours with its Level 2 (240 volt) on-board charging module.
Chrysler engineers have done a remarkable job of converting the cute and fun-to-drive 500 to electric power without sacrificing any of those two endearing qualities. If anything, the eight aerodynamic drag-reducing changes (front fascia, front air dam, wheels, mirror caps, rear spoiler, rear fascia, underbody panels and side sills) they made to its body actually enhance its looks while reducing its wind resistance by 13 percent for an added three miles of range. And Chrysler marketers have done an equally impressive job of making the 500e accessible to almost anyone (at least in California, for now).
While it's sticker price is a hefty $32,500 (double gas 500's starting price), buyers who can pony up $999 can apply a federal $7,500 tax rebate and another $2,500 from California, plus a $2,000 Fiat rebate, to get their lease payment down to very affordable $199/month - the same as the base 500.