A rundown on current electric cars, FIAT 500e and Chevy Spark EV

Chevy Spark EVWith the information, and often times, misinformation, on electric vehicles (EV), we felt it was time to clarify things a little. Here is a rundown of currently available electric vehicles we test drove or reviewed on CarNewsCafe. Find out what they mean to you.

Fiat 500e, begrudgingly, one of the best

This is FIAT’s forced electric car and even though its CEO, Sergio Sergio Marchionne laments losing money on every one that the company makes, it is ironically one of the company’s best sellers. The 500e is only available in California. Try to lease one, we dare you. The good news is that FIAT is caving and its availability might now expand to other states. It comes in orange only, officially Arancio Elettrico, and besides that, the round perforate fascia grills is the only way to distinguish it from other models. But wait, there is more…

This is the car that has FIAT puzzled. According to my many talks with Brett Giem, Chrysler’s chief engineer for the 500e project, the EV is based on none other than the 500 Abarth. Although only sporting a 111 HP electric motor, the better distributed center of gravity makes for a fun and spirited ride. It’s essentially an electric Abarth. Its low-end torque will etch an EV grin, ear to ear.

The Fiat 500e is comfortable with four seats, although tall people will want to refrain from sitting in the back. The steering and suspension is exactly what you would expect from this iconic Italian car, sharp and precise, and a lot of fun.

It’s easy to achieve 100 miles of combined city-highway driving with the 500e. The EPA gives it an equivalent of 116 MPGe and the FIAT 500e gets 3.6 miles per kWh with an around 80 miles or range per charge. This will vary, such as in city driving, you will easily achieve over 100 miles. We found that highway will be closer to 75 miles, depending on speed and weather. It has a Smartphone app and its infotainment system is fairly easy to use.

The $7,500 federal tax credit and California’s $2,500 state rebate, on top of the manufacturer’s $2,000 incentive brings the $32,600 price down to a more manageable $20,600.

Chevrolet Spark, spunky and fun

Our latest Chevy Spark EV review says it all, but the gist is, this car is zesty, spunky and has accelerations only matched by the 500e and the Honda Fit EV. This was also one very fun car to drive around, surprising more than one gasoline cars at red lights.

With a more substantial 140 HP electric motor, the steering feels lighter and not as sharp as the FIAT 500e. However the 400 lb – ft of torque more than makes up for the HP, and sprints the Spark EV from 0 to 60 MPH in under eight seconds.

The circuit theme interior is fun, without looking cheap. GM’s MyLink infotainment system works well and does what it needs to do.

The EPA gives the Spark E.V. a combined 119 MPGe, and as you can see from our last article, it was easy to keep the momentum going in full traffic with as little a 1 kWh to 2. The 72 miles of range is easy to achieve. In fact, someone at GM told me she achieved 123. Think you can do better? Let us know.

$750 will give you the SAE Combo fast charging system, which means either using a 240V Level 2 charger or the 480V Level III fast charger. We do question why choosing the SAE Combo when CHAdeMO is so readily available, at least here in the Los Angeles area, but we also understand GM’s political weight behind it. At the very least, it would be great to have an adapter to use both.

While only available in California and Oregon, its enticing price, $27,495, without federal incentive allows you to bring it down below $20,000. Add to this the state incentive, and other local incentives, and it drops to around $17,500, below if more. The lease price is on par with the FIAT 500e, $199 with a $999 down payment.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the Smart EV, the Honda EV.

Nicolas Zart
Born and raised around classic cars, it wasn't until Nicolas drove an AC Proulsion eBox and a Tesla Roadster that the light went on. Eager to spread the news about those amazing full torque electric vehicles, he started writing about this amazing technology and its social impacts in 2007. Today, Nicolas covers renewable energy, test drives cars, does podcasts and films. Nicolas offers an in-depth look at the e-mobility world through interviews and the many contacts he made in those industries. His articles are also published on Teslrati, CleanTechnica, the Beverly Hills Car Club and Medium. "There are more solutions than obstacles." Nicolas Zart