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Summary:

Chrysler and Fiat plan to launch an electric version of the Fiat 500 minicar packed with lithium-ion batteries from A123Systems in the U.S. in 2012, Chrysler announced today. It will mark the pair’s first all-electric model, and a big year for A123 as it finds its […]

Chrysler and Fiat plan to launch an electric version of the Fiat 500 minicar packed with lithium-ion batteries from A123Systems in the U.S. in 2012, Chrysler announced today. It will mark the pair’s first all-electric model, and a big year for A123 as it finds its footing as a large scale battery maker.

Chrysler tapped battery company A123Systems last year as the supplier for at least the first generation of plug-in vehicles in its planned ENVI lineup. The automaker has largely scrapped the original ENVI plan, however, making clear in the 5-year plan it unveiled last November that it won’t kick into high gear with electric cars for the consumer market until 2011 and beyond.

Chrysler explains that the Fiat 500EV powertrain includes three main systems: an electric powertrain module, a lithium-ion battery pack, and a control unit, “to manage power flows.” The company says that it will house all powertrain engineering and vehicle development at its Michigan headquarters. The bulk of the manufacturing, however, will take place elsewhere. According to the Detroit Free Press, a location has not been determined for powertrain manufacturing, but the rest of the vehicle will be assembled in Toluca, Mexico.

Chrysler showed a concept for an electric version of the subcompact in January at the Detroit Auto Show. But sources told Autoweek at the time that the automaker did not have “immediate plans” to sell the model in North America. This morning, Chrysler announced that it’s plowing ahead with a Fiat 500EV and targeting a price range that “will be competitive with similar electric vehicles in the market.”

Chrysler, now managed and partly owned by Italy’s Fiat, will be getting some help from the U.S. government in its electrification efforts. As part of the $2.4 billion battery grant program, the Department of Energy has awarded Chrysler a grant for up to $48 million to build 140 plug-in hybrid versions of its Dodge Ram truck in a 3-year demonstration project. These demo vehicles will use batteries from Electrovaya, based in Mississauga, Ontario (see: 20 Battery Startups Hitting the Road With Lithium-ion).

With Fiat on board and looking to re-introduce several of its brands on the North American market, the electric lineup could eventually include some lighter-weight entries based on Fiat’s array of compact and subcompact vehicle platforms. Giving electric drive and decent battery range to these smaller cars could be less complicated than Chrysler’s earlier plans to electrify heftier models like the Town & Country minivan, Jeep Wrangler and Patriot SUVs. Chrysler’s Scott Kunselman, Senior Vice President Engineering, said in a statement this morning, “The Fiat 500 is a small, lightweight platform perfect for integrating electric-vehicle technology.”

But it’s out with the old and in with the new this morning. Chrysler also confirmed today that it “has decided to cancel development work” on the 2011 hybrid version of its Dodge Ram pick-up truck (originally announced in 2008) because, “After closely evaluating the response to hybrid pickups in the marketplace, the company could not formulate an appropriate business case,” for the model.

  1. Aptera’s window of opportunity appears to be closing…quickly.

    1. Interesting thought. Have to say though, it seems unlikely to me that Aptera’s three-wheeler would be in direct competition with a model that looks as conventional (by comparison) as the Fiat500.

      1. If Aptera’s EV isn’t going to compete with small EV like the Fiat – what is it’s market?

        I’d imagine the Fiat would get around 100miles per charge using the A123 batteries, which is the same as Aptera’s 2e and I’m sure Fiat will be able to produce it for less money.

    2. I’d actually prefer the Aptera over the e500. Just so long as the Aptera can be set to make the same noise as that car from The Jetsons.

  2. Benjamin Branch Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    I think the Fiat will do really well. Will probably compete with the electric Mini and this will help keep pricing down, hopefully. Great to see serious manufacturers beginning to get serious about 100% electric cars.

  3. Where in the Press Release does it say a132 batteries? All I see is ElectroVaya

  4. I would echo, somewhat, the comment of luigimenx. How can you state in the headline that they are using A123 batteries for the 500EV when it’s clear upon reading the article and press release that any role of A123 in Chrysler’s future is merely the speculation of the author? This certainly isn’t the type of behavior one would expect from a writer who claims an MA from the Graduate Program in Journalism at Stanford University.

  5. Electrovaya, Chrysler Testing Batteries for Plug-in Hybrid Ram Monday, May 17, 2010

    [...] Chrysler — now managed and partly owned by Italy’s Fiat – is uncertain. For the electric version of the Fiat 500 minicar slated for a 2012 U.S. launch, the automaker plans to use batteries from [...]

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    [...] the automotive and grid storage space (its batteries will be used in the upcoming Fisker Karma and electric Fiat 500), for some tips on extending battery life. Here’s their three ways to slow the [...]

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