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If you’ve been reading my blog and noticed the new header image from a few months ago it might not be any surprise to hear that we ordered our very own Fiat 500e some months ago. Like everyone else, we’ve been waiting as patiently as we can, to hear news from Fiat that they are releasing them for sale to buyers.
For those who haven’t been following this story as closely as I have, in mid-August Fiat announced a recall on all of the 274 Fiat 500e electric cars that had been delivered in California to date. The problem was due to two bolts that attached the “half-shaft” of the vehicle and which could separate rendering the power-train inoperable (translation, sudden and complete loss of power while driving). The half-shaft is the shaft that connects the two front wheels to the gearbox. The 500e doesn’t have a traditional transmission so in this case it is the connection to the gear reduction system that is involved. The problem was discovered when a Fiat 500e owner’s car lost power. According to, Green Car Congress, the problem was caused by two steps in the vehicle assembly process that had not been completed properly. It’s not clear what those steps were and if the wrong bolts were used. According to Kristean von der Heiden, Brand Manager of Berkeley’s McKevitt Fiat, who I spoke with in detail earlier today, the reason the recall process took as long as it did was that the bolts had to be delivered from Germany.
According to Kristean von der Heiden, 600 Fiat 500e’s will be arriving at California Fiat dealerships this month. A large percentage of those electric cars will be heading to the Berkeley dealership given the huge waiting list they have amassed for the vehicles. And this waiting list is full of people who are serious; each one of them put down a $1,000 deposit to hold their place in the queue.
Kristean told me about his experience driving a production 500e. This was a car that in his words “will never be sold to a customer,” so he decided to try pushing it to its limit. He and a colleague were heading to an event in San Francisco. Kristean was driving the 500e the other person a 500 Abarth (the gas engine based performance version of the 500). They raced the two vehicles and the 500e left the Abarth in the dust as its high torque electric motor took off! The car had reached a quarter-mile when the Abarth passed it at over 60mph. In short, the 500e is faster than an Abarth at all but top highway speeds.It also performs better in ways thanks to the more even weight distribution afforded by the battery pack.
Are you waiting for your 500e? Well, there may be a way to skip ahead in the line. According to Kristean von der Heiden, the most popular color is orange but most of the vehicles shipping are black or white. So if you are willing to pick the less popular colors you will get your car a lot sooner. Personally, I’m holding out for orange, or as Fiat calls it “Electric Orange.” With less than 7% of the cars the Berkeley dealership expects to receive this month coming in orange, that may be a long wait.