Electric Fiat 500 Plug-In Hybrid Conversion Stirs Up Major Interest

FEV Motorentechnik — an engine and powertrain systems R&D company based in Aachen, Germany — was on hand at the Vienna Motor Symposium last week to show off its LiiON range extended electric fiat 500 conversion. Over the course of a two day ride and drive marathon, the little car proved to be one of the most popular attractions… mostly due to the fact that it didn’t have to recharge.

Technically an extended range electric vehicle (EREV) like the Chevy Volt, the LiiON can go 50 miles on a charge and then, when the batteries are depleted, a small 26 HP Wankel rotary engine turns on and sends a current to the batteries to provide an extra 190 miles of range on a small amount of fuel — it only has a 3.17 gallon tank! Given those stats, it appears the fuel efficiency in range extended mode is nearly 60 mpg. The engine is never directly powering the wheels, so in all honesty it’s actually an electric car and not a hybrid, but writing ‘extended range electric vehicle’ in the title of a post is a killer… and most people don’t even know what that phrase means yet.

The LiiON has a 12 kWh battery pack mounted under the floor and a 60 kW (80 HP) motor. Reportedly, the little sprite can go from 0-37 mph in less than 6 seconds, and has a top speed of more than 75 mph. Of course, while it’s running on battery power alone it produces no tailpipe emissions, but even with the Wankel engine on it produces less than 80 g of carbon dioxide per mile. Pretty damn good if you ask me.

Given that FEV is quoting an all electric driving range of 50 miles on a 12 kWh battery pack, that indicates to me that they are allowing the battery to fully discharge before the range extender turns on. Although not unheard of, this is something that Chevy, with their Volt EREV, has avoided like the plague. The Volt has a 16 kWh battery and an all electric range of 40 miles because Chevy never lets the battery discharge less than halfway… thereby extending the life of the battery.

The FEV LiiON is only a concept vehicle, but FEV says that the powertrain is licensed for automotive use (presumably in Europe) so that other companies would be able to install it in purpose-built vehicles. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to have a sporty little Fiat 500 EREV. I wonder how much the conversion kit would cost?

Source: FEV (via Green Car Congress)

Nick Chambers

Not your traditional car guy.