thought it might be a good time to provide feedback at
5,000 miles on my electric car experiment. In October I
leased an all-electric Fiat 500e, as the cost of the
lease was less than I was spending each month on
gasoline to drive my conventional vehicle.
Fiatís battery range of 80-90 miles presents an
occasional concern, but actually gets it done for about
90 percent of my daily needs. There have been a few
times Iíve arrived home after work and there wasnít
enough time to charge the car sufficiently to head back
out for an extended evening adventure. Or while I could
easily make the 50-mile trip to San Francisco, I couldnít
be assured I could find convenient or available charging
there so I could make the trip home. Availability of
electric vehicle plug-in locations is still quite
love this little car. Itís a blast to drive, with very
peppy acceleration and crisp handling paid for with a
choppy, firm ride. And itís surprisingly roomy inside.
My wife and I are continually amazed at how many
groceries or home-improvement items you can cram into
the rear with the useless back seat folded down. An
illuminated "hatch ajar" light is frequent
source of amusement, telling us we have truly filled it.
Iíve only forgotten to plug the car in once, requiring
me to drive the oil-burner SUV the following day. My
5,000 mile average is 136 mpg-e, almost 10 times the
efficiency of our oil-burner.
blending of slingshot acceleration, deceleration energy
regeneration, and brakes is done magnificently ó it
appears to be 100 percent regeneration until you drop
below 8 mph. During firm braking at speed, itís
amazing to see it packing up to 75,000 watts of juice
back into the batteries. Everything about this car is
flawless, except for one silly, one annoying and one
truly awful feature.
included TomTom navigation unit is a joke, plugging in
atop the instrument panel in the worst possible place,
obstructing vision. It lives, unused, in the glove box.
The Bluetooth phone merging is delightfully convenient,
but clumsy. About once every seven times, it
misinterprets my crystal-clear, increasingly snide
requests; drops the link to the phone; or dials the
really serious beef is with a feature called Auto Park.
This well-intended fiasco is supposed to prevent me from
stepping out of the absolutely silent vehicle if the
shifter is accidentally left in drive. This may be great
if you live on a salt flat, but for folks that park or
stop occasionally on slopes, itís a disaster. Letís
say you remove your seatbelt and crack open the driverís
door to untangle your coat tail, or in my case get out
to open and close a rural driveway gate, the car will
violently slam into park if the car creeps slightly or
is still moving very slowly as the door is opened. It
will also sometimes slam into park as I release the
brake pedal to move forward, after re-entering the
vehicle. And never, ever turn off the key while still
moving. In addition to the unpleasant whiplash, thereís
a very good chance the transmission may someday end up
on the ground in pieces.
considers this normal operation, even after Iíve told
them several times, "Either Auto Park goes or the
car does." Well, Auto Park went away, after I took
matters into my own hands. It was a challenge to
outsmart the system without any available wiring
diagrams, but Iím now in complete driving bliss.
STORY CAN END HERE)
likely in the minority to acquire an electric car
without concern for the coveted white HOV-lane sticker.
Iíve only driven solo twice in the car pool lane, and
it was pretty cool. The almost-zero maintenance,
exhilarating and guilt-free acceleration, cost savings
and smaller environmental footprint are what rock my