The same thing happened with iPhone adoption in 2007. When the iPhonewent on sale on June 29, 2007, adoption was not uniform across thecountry or even inside California. In the first weeks, it was alreadya big product in Silicon Valley, whereas the rest of the country andthe world caught up in the next few years. If the explosive growth in U.S. electric car sales continues at thepercentage rates it grew in 2011, 2012 and likely 2013, there will bemillions of electric vehicles on U.S. roads within a decade. Fiat-Chrysler probablydoesn't want to cede this opportunity by being viewed as a ludditecompany in Silicon Valley. Although Fiat-Chryslermay be using Nvidia CPUs and GPUs for design-engineering andinfotainment in future years, that's not nearly enough. It is against this backdrop that Fiat-Chrysler is making its first beton the electric car market in California. It's even going so far as to establish an electric car distribution center in the SanFrancisco Bay area, which will be deliver all configurations (colors,trims and options) to area dealers within 24-48 hours. In addition,it establishing a second such distribution center in the Los Angelesarea, where some electric cars are also sold.
The Fiat 500e is a straightforward electric car, making it drivesimilarly to EVs such as the Nissan ( NSANY) LEAF, Ford ( F) Focus and Chevrolet Volt. The basic drivetrain ensures that these cars have far far more in common than not. In Fiat's case, the battery cells are made by Samsung, and Bosch delivers most of the drivetrain modules, including the whole battery pack and the electric motor. Fiat then integrates the hardware andthe software, calibrates it, and produces the whole package in itsMexico plant together with the regular gasoline Fiat 500 models. The battery has a gross capacity of 24 kWh -- the same as the Nissan LEAF but more than the Ford's 23 kWh -- but the usable portion is as high as22.8 kWh, a far higher percentage than anything else I've seen as astandard charging mode, which in this car is the only mode. The battery sits in the floor, from the front of the front seats allthe way to the rear "axle." It adds 600 pounds of weight to the tinycar, yielding a total of 2,950 pounds, but it also shifts the weightdistribution from 63% front to 53% front. Together with the loweredcenter of gravity, this significantly improves handling, which I foundto be excellent. The low weight helps contribute an an EPA-certified average range of87 miles, which is better than its closest competitors, the NissanLEAF and Ford Focus Electric. The soon-to-arrive Chevrolet Spark EVmay come close to this number; we shall see.