Fiat 500e: An Italian Goes Electric

Introduced on Wednesday: 2013 Fiat 500e

What it is: The e stands alone — this is Fiat’s first all-electric model. Although similar to the gas-powered 500, some changes were made to its aerodynamics and other e-centric needs, like a new suspension, spoiler and sleeker design.

What it isn’t: It’s not a guaranteed hit, despite being a fairly stealth-looking electric vehicle. As in, it doesn’t look weird and stays true to the looks of the familiar 500. However, the 500 barely makes a blip on the radar of buyers in the United States, so having the automaker promote this model as “environmentally sexy” might be all it has left.

What makes it tick: A 111-horsepower electric motor is combined with a lithium-ion battery, with a battery-powered range of about 80 miles.

How much, how soon? The 500e will arrive via slow rollout, commencing in California in the first or second quarter of the year. Fiat is still deciding where to introduce the 500e next. Pricing has not been announced, but expect it to be comparable to the competition.

Our take: With companies like Nissan struggling with its electric Leaf, and Fiat’s chief executive, Sergio Marchionne, lukewarm on why electric vehicles have to exist at all, it seems the 500e is just lucky to be alive.

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