Fiat has unveiled the 500e – an EV adaptation of its popular 500 supermini – today at the LA motor show.

Powered by a 75kW (100bhp) electric motor mated to a lithium ion battery pack, the 500e will go on sale in California in 2013.

Fiat claims that the battery pack takes just four hours to charge using its 240volt on-board charging module. Estimated range on a full charge is 80 miles, though Fiat says over 100 miles is possible with considerate city driving.

The chassis and suspension has been revised from the standard 500, to maintain the car's handling balance with the additional weight of the EV drivetrain.

The exterior look has changed little compared with that of the regular Fiat 500 but revisions, includng the addition of an aerodynamic chin spoiler and a new front valance, have cut drag, purportedly adding four miles to the car's range. The unique alloy wheels are also shod in low-resistance tyres to further minimise energy losses.

Inside, the 500e comes with a choice of black or white colour schemes, both contrasted with orange trim detailing. A TFT instrument cluster replaces the dials of the standard car and the conventional gearlever has been swapped for push button selectors.

There are indications that Fiat could potentially lose up to $10,000 on each 500e, and is only marketing the car to meet California’s zero-emissions vehicle mandate – which requires car manufacturers to total 1.5 million EV sales by 2025 – and to advance its development of electric vehicles.

Daljinder Nagra