Today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Fiat 500e has the dubious distinction of representing a model with the highest depreciation of any electric car sold in the U.S.. Let’s see if that bad rap can be parlayed into what could be considered a shockingly good deal.
When applied to strangers on a train, women in dark foreign bars, or someone covering your eyes from behind while saying ‘guess who?’ a little mystery is always a good thing. When it comes to the age of sushi, wires connected to detonators and, most importantly to us, used cars, the unknown can be far less appreciated.
Yesterday’s 1998 Volvo V70 sure had its pluses. Not only did it carry a five speed but its load area could also be converted into extra passenger space at a snap of your fingers. As further a bonus, it was in seemingly decent shape with no acknowledged mechanical flaws. At $1,500, that made up a pretty compelling package.
Then came the mystery. The seller stated in his ad that his V70, like most old Volvos ‘had its idiosyncrasies.’ Now I don’t think that Craigslist has started charging by the word—not yet at least—so I feel that it would have been wholly appropriate for the seller to actually disclose what those idiosyncrasies might be. Instead of history, we got mystery.
Despite that, the vote turned out to be less of a mystery, as fully 77 percent of you weighed in with your hearts, averring that you would be happy to put up with whatever oddball quirks the car might manifest in its role as a Volvo of a certain age.
Since it’s no mystery that many of you like cars with quirks, let’s move on to one of the quirkier cars that’s presently on the market. You can walk into any Fiat dealer here in the U.S., plunk down a chunk of change somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty-five grand, and whiz home in a nice new, fully electric 500e.
Ah, but why would you, when you could buy this 2013 edition for far, far less? The seller claims this little electric is just as good as new, and it comes with less than 37,000 miles under its belt. I’ll bet it even smells new. Or maybe like a toaster the first time you use it? I’m not all that up to speed on the olfactory options of electric cars.
The origin of the electric 500 is interesting. It was originally conceived to comply with California’s CARB regulation that required the larger car makers to ensure a percentage of their cars sold in the State would be zero emissions. Fiat seemingly did such a good job in packaging and tuning in the 500e as a sporty electric that after an initial run in California, its sales expanded outside of the Golden State.
The changes from gas to electric on Fiat’s restromod 500 are subtle but extensive. Along with its 111 horsepower/148 lb-ft of torque three-phase electric motor and 24 kWh active-cooled battery pack, the 500e featured a new belly plate, re-sculpted side-view mirror caps, and a more flush wheel design. All of this give the car a coefficient of drag of 0.311, which makes it a good bit slipperier than the slickest of the gas model.
That battery pack is a pretty modest size, half that of the lowest range Tesla Model 3. It is perhaps befitting as the car’s overall dimensions are tiny. That still means that range is minimal. The seller says the car gets over 100 miles per change and while I’m one to believe him since it is his car, the factory claim is only 84 miles between plug-ins.
That’s one of the main reasons why the 500e and other limited range EVs lose their value so quickly. This is not a car that you could pack up and take for a day trip up the coast or whatever you do that demands being far enough away from home that you couldn’t effectively catch a ride share back.
For around town however, these cars are a blast to drive. The battery pack is super heavy, but Fiat placed it down low so it doesn’t feel like you’re driving Leonardo DiCaprio’s Inception top. There are few other compromises over a gas engine here either.
The interior still offers four seats, albeit with cramped accommodations owing to the juxtaposition of the car’s size to its need to protect those occupants in the event of an accident. There’s also a bit of storage in back in case you need to carry a gym bag around.
The black interior on this one comes with red accents and looks as clean as when it whizzed out of the factory. The shifter has been replaced by a bank of buttons that should look familiar to anyone who has ever ridden in an elevator, while the big speedo carries a center screen that lets you keep tabs on how much range anxiety you should be having at any given moment. Steering, pedals and other controls are in their familiar locations and work as you might expect.
The exterior is Grigio with more red accents and, like the interior, looks without issue. The car comes with a clean title, two sets of keys, and all the original paperwork, including its Monroney sticker.
It also comes with a $7,900 price. That’s a far cry off the $35,000 the car cost new. In deference to Fiat, even at that price the company reportedly lost $10K on every 500e sold. Depreciation is a hell of a drug, especially when it comes to electric cars that don’t go all that far. We see similar perilous drops in prices for the BMW i3, VW’s e-Golf and most egregiously owing to its poorly conceived passive-cooled batteries, the Nissan Leaf. This 500e is still ticking down its 8-year/100K battery warranty so even if the juicer goes tits-up in the next year, you likely wouldn’t have a lawn decoration.
Okay, neighborhood knock-arounds, what’s your take on this 500e and that $7,900 asking? Does that make a compelling argument for driveway electrification? Or, is that price just another thing about this Fiat that comes up short?
H/T to Jed H for the hookup!
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