When I write EV Ownership Stories, I hear from a lot of people who make an electric car a part of their broader fleet. But the constraints of space, time, and money often dictate that just a couple of cars can be kept around, and this week’s featured EV owner, Evan, has picked two solid choices.
First, to delve into the electric choice: a 2017 Fiat 500e. The first-generation 500e was, at its core, a compliance car built by the manufacturer formerly known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and sold only in states that required zero-emissions vehicles to be sold (namely California and Oregon). Sergio Marchionne himself admitted that Fiat lost about fourteen Gs on every 500e sold, but the laws of California required FCA build pure EVs in order to keep selling gas cars in the state. So the 500e persevered.
From a technical standpoint, the 500e does have appeal. The Bosch-built powertrain, a three-phase synchronous drive motor with 111 horsepower and 147 ft-lbs of torque, won a Ward’s 10 Best Engines trophy upon its introduction to the market for how compact and powerful it is. Unfortunately, the tiny footprint of the 500 limited overall battery capacity, and so the 500e is propelled by only a 24kWh battery unit (albeit one with active liquid-coolant battery thermal management, a relative rarity for a compliance car in the early teens). This gives the car a rather paltry EPA-rated 84 miles of range. That’s been plenty for Evan most days, though he will be looking for a longer-range car when it’s time to replace the Fiat.
That brings up an even more interesting fact about his ownership experience: Evan lives in the metropolitan Detroit area, a 2,400-mile trek from California, where the 500e was sold new. The Motor City was never supposed to host an electric Fiat on its pothole-pockmarked roads, but Evan and his wife purchased the car from a luxury dealer in the region. The dealer had brought in off-lease 500es to sell as curios to people buying high-end cars, likely because these things were complete steals as they came off lease.
To drive home the Motor City vibe, it shares a garage with a Dodge Challenger Scat Pack. His wife wanted a smaller, more daily-drivable — and importantly, parkable — car for city driving. Since they both live within 10 miles of their offices, the short range of the 500e’s limited battery was a non-issue. As Evan put it, “If we are just popping to the shops or seeing friends this is easier, cheaper, easy to park and my wife doesn’t like driving the Challenger much, she says it’s too big.”
Evan was drawn to purchasing an EV because his day job is working in automotive strategy and marketing, and an electric car was a notable absence from his ownership experiences. Additionally, he spent time in Europe for work, where his wife had a gas 1.2L Fiat 500, and they fell in love with the platform. In Europe, the only way to get a first-generation 500e was for him to drive a manufacturer-plated test car, as they weren’t ever sold there to the public. He had the chance to drive one that FCA had brought into the continent across the pond, though, and deeply enjoyed it. When he and his wife returned to the U.S., the 500e was the natural choice, especially once depreciation had worked its wonders.
Overall, he and his wife have thoroughly enjoyed the 500e. As Evan told me,
When we go on the highway it depletes the battery pretty quickly, but we can easily get to and from central detroit to Rochester Hills where we live on I75 most of the way without worrying about range (about 58mi return trip)... With COVID we downsized from two company cars to one, then got the Fiat as a runaround... and it’s what we use most now. The Fiat replaced my wife’s 2dr Wrangler Rubicon. Practicality isn’t really something we shop for...
Bespite his claims of eschewing practicality, there’s no denying the 500e has been phenomenally useful for him. Evan’s even reached the point where he’s let friends borrow the Challenger for weeks on end, because they only use that for fun — the Fiat handles all of the house’s day-to-day needs. Of course, when he feels the call of the Motor City and needs to take out a burbling V8 to cruise Woodward in, he’s still got that, too. Pretty good two-car garage, in my opinion. I’m glad that even the more eclectic of the US’s EV options have worked out so well for their owners, so thank you so much for sharing your story with me, Evan!
We’d love to hear from more readers about their EVs, modern or classic, factory or otherwise.
What car do you own? (If you owned a car in the past, let us know what years!)
Where do you live with it?
How and where do you charge it?
How was buying it?
How long have you had it?
How has it lived up to your expectations?
A photo of your car
If you want to be interviewed, please let us know an email with an re: EV Ownership Stories to tscott at jalopnik dot com!