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    Avoid gas stations altogether. Electricity is cheap and ubiquitous. EVs are the greenest vehicles you can buy. But limited range means mostly local driving.

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    Gas-electric hybrids are the most efficient cars that don’t have a plug. There are nearly 40 available models—ranging from compact to full-size SUV.

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    Diesel vehicles have exceptional fuel efficiency and are fun to drive. Today's diesels are much cleaner and quieter than those from previous generations.

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    Great fuel efficiency is possible with conventional gas engines. There's a growing list of reasonably priced models getting 35 mpg or higher.

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    Research is required to find a local station that pumps CNG (Compressed Natural Gas), and choice of models is limited. But the payoff is low-cost fuel that burns clean.

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    If you live near an E85 pump, a flex-fuel car utilizes a domestic source of farm-grown fuel.

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First Drive: Fiat 500e Offers EV Charm, Range and Great Price

By Brad Berman
Posted on Apr 15, 2013
First Drive: Fiat 500e Offers EV Charm, Range and Great Price

Vast numbers of car buyers are interested in an electric car, according to numerous consumer surveys.  But only if an entire set of Ifs can be addressed.  Fortunately, the EV market has a new car that transforms those Ifs into a real option: the all-electric Fiat 500e could be a hit. 

Last week, I spent a day driving the cute two-seater 500e in and around Los Angeles. The stylish electric subcompact was a blast to drive.  It handled well, and could be easily tossed around crowded city streets, along mountain switchbacks and down coastal highways.  With performance of 9 seconds in zero-to-60 acceleration, there’s no Ifs, Ands, or Buts when it comes to acceleration.

2013 Fiat 500e. (Photo: Bradley Berman)

The first big IF facing consumers thinking about an EV is price: Since their introduction in late 2010, EVs have carried a significant premium compared to similar gas-powered models.  But the Fiat 500e offers a lease that equates to $0 down, and $160 a month.  That’s compelling. 

The purchase price is nominally based on $32,500—but throw in a couple thousand dollars worth of dealership incentives, a $7,500 tax credit, and a $2,500 rebate in California to get a capable, fast, great small commuter for a great price. (Sorry, for the next year or so, the car is only available in California.) 

My 43-mile trip, using nearly half the battery pack, revealed that the 500e can reliably deliver driving range of nearly 90 miles per charge. That’s fine for daily use, but prevents longer road trips.  Fiat came up with a solution: Every customer that buys or leases the car qualifies for a free car rental at Enterprise for one day per month.  Days can be banked for up to 12 rental days per year.   Any segment of car can be rented from Enterprise, offering the convenience to switch to a vehicle suitable for a family trip, weekend getaway for couples, or hauling stuff.

With price and range concerns mitigated, a lasting critical concern has been EV styling.  Yes, there are gorgeous plug-in vehicles, like the Tesla Model S and Fisker Karma, but those are priced between about $70,000 and $100,000.  The more affordable EVs, like the Nissan LEAF and Mistubishi i-MiEV, lean toward the geeky side of automotive design. 

This is where the Fiat 500e offers something new in an affordable model.  With a range of super-sharp color and trim options—and an overall shape and design flair that exudes Italian charm—the 500e transforms a techno aesthetic into a small car that can legitimately be deemed sexy.

Yes, the Fiat 500e is small with a marginally useful backseat.  But if asking family and friends to squeeze into the second row is not a deal-killer for you, then the small Italian EV, with an attractive price and a solution for road trips, could bring new drivers into the world of electric cars.

 

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