The return of the Fiat 500e, Toyota shows a small electric SUV, so long Acura NSX


Electric Fiat 500 making a U.S. comeback

Intake: Come stai, Fiat 500e? As part of its Los Angeles Auto Show festivities, Fiat announced the current-gen electric Fiat 500e city car will return to the U.S. market for the 2024 model year. The Italian automaker previously pulled the plug on the stateside 500 back in the 2019 model year, leaving us first with only the 124 Spider, 500L, and the 500X—the latter of which now remains the only Fiat model still sold in the U.S. Until now! Or, uh, sometime next year. The Fiat 500e currently for sale overseas is a significantly refreshed car that appears far more upscale and well-appointed than the compliance appliance that was the prior 500e. As for range, pricing, and power, we’re mostly in the dark, as Fiat CEO Francois Olivier claims the real-deal U.S. debut of the 500e will happen at next year’s LA Auto Show. Until then, some educated speculation says the new itty-bitty EV likely mirrors the spec-sheet available on Europe’s iteration. This means a 24-kWh battery pack with around 115 miles of range, built around a 400-volt architecture that brims the battery after four hours hooked up at 11 kW, and is rated up to 85 kW of charging input. Not enough? An optional 42-kWh juicebox nets more miles of range.

Exhaust: We’re very excited to see such the return of the tiny 500 to our shores, but this is likely the make-or-break move for Fiat in the U.S. market. If this one fails to launch, odds are it’s out for good. That’s (potentially) a shame, since the new 500e looks mighty chic-‘n-sharp in photos. Our gut tells us only the big-battery 500e is coming to our shores — probably a good thing — and the finalized EPA-certified range should be closer to the 150-mile mark. Performance won’t be Tesla (or even Chevy Volt) quick, but zap-heads can look forward to an electric Abarth variant that’s buzzing just around the corner. —Conner Golden

Toyota shows scaled-down battery SUV

Toyota 2022_bZ_Compact_SUV_Concept_4

Intake: It’s no show-stopper but the ‘does what it says on the tin’ Toyota bZ Compact SUV Concept unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show will play an important part in Toyota’s electrification plans. Sitting below the recently-launched bZ4X as the second model in the Japanese firm’s “Beyond Zero” range it appears to be a battery-powered equivalent to the C-HR crossover. The execution is slick, there are eco materials inside, and Toyota promises “dynamic performance.” You’ll also see that it has a yoke to control a steer-by-wire system just like bZ4X. More information is due in a month’s time.

Exhaust: What can we say? It looks… fine. Fit for purpose and presentable. Let’s just hope the wheels don’t fall off this one. —Nik Berg

Public Citizen is at it again

Toyota Prius Prime charging

Intake: Regular readers will recall that a week ago, Public Citizen, the Ralph Nader-founded advocacy group, shamed Toyota for a statement from an executive that said we may be rushing electric vehicles  that hybrids could be an effective transition. Public Citizen insisted that Toyota stop building any vehicle with an engine, and go all electric, by 2030. They are at it again, chastising Toyota for it’s brand-new Prius introduced yesterday at the LA Auto Show. “The new Prius model asks: What if we took the look of a Tesla, but instead made it pollute with an internal combustion engine? Despite over a decade of record-setting global temperatures, Toyota’s new Prius missed an opportunity to take a fully-electric step toward the future. This ‘hybrid reborn’ relies on a combustion engine, connected to a gas tank, further polluting our communities and atmosphere.”

Exhaust: Sigh. —SCS

The last NSX has left the line

Acura last NSX Type S

Intake: Acura has assembled its final NSX. The Type S, finished in Gotham Gray matte paintwork is the 350th example of the more powerful, 602-horsepower model which arrived for the last year of production. Built at Acura’s Performance Manufacturing Center in Marysville, Ohio, the hybrid supercar has sold just shy of 3,000 units since its introduction in 2016, when it was priced at $156,000. Featuring a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6, three electric motors, and a nine-speed dual-clutch transmission the NSX was supposed to be the pinnacle of Acura technology, but as result was a more clinical, less involving driver’s car than the original. Famously developed with the help of Ayrton Senna, the first generation sold almost 19,000 examples in 15 years of production.

Exhaust: It could have been very different indeed. Back in 2007 Honda America’s boss Tetsuo Iwamura said a V-10 NSX successor was under development. However, when the NSX Concept was finally revealed at the 2012 North American Auto Show, times had changed and it had evolved into a more socially-acceptable hybrid. Getting it production-ready took almost four more years and despite high-profile marketing with a Superbowl ad featuring Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld competing to get the first one, and an appearance in Marvel’s Avengers it never quite captured the public’s imagination. Heroic failure or missed opportunity? —NB

Where will all the coming electric 18-wheelers recharge?

Tesla Semi Charging

Intake: A story from Bloomberg via Automotive News paints a scary picture of what it will take to recharge electric 18-wheelers on the road. Citing a survey by National Grid Plc.: “Researchers found that by 2030, electrifying a typical highway gas station will require as much power as a professional sports stadium and that’s mostly just for electrified passenger vehicles. As more electric trucks hit the road, the projected power needs for a big truck stop by 2035 will equal that of a small town.” Even more sobering: “A connection to the grid that can handle more than 5 megawatts takes up to eight years to build, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars.”

Exhaust: It’s a very real question: Where are all the coming electric trucks going to recharge? Will they be limited to local runs where they are back at the terminal every night? “We need to start making these investments now,” said Bart Franey, an executive with National Grid, which is a power company. “We can’t just wait for it to happen, because the market is going to outpace the infrastructure.” —SCS

Ram recalling 280,000 diesel trucks

2021 Ram Heavy Duty diesel trucks

Ram is recalling 280,000 heavy-duty diesel trucks worldwide 248,000 of them in the U.S. for fire risks. The recall covers 2020-2023 Ram 2500 and 2020-2022 Ram 3500 trucks. Pressure and heat inside the transmission may result in a transmission fluid leak that could cause a fire. The company has reports of 16 vehicle fires and one minor injury that may be related to the recall. The recall covers trucks with 6.7-liter Cummins diesel engines and automatic transmissions. Ram is working on a fix.

 Exhaust: The leak may be tipped off by a warning light. Owners seeing that light should contact their dealer ASAP. —SCS

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    I was stationed in Italy for a year (1971-72). Fiat 500s were all over the place and they ran without any problems. I was so impressed with them that I bought a Fiat 850 Spider when I got out of the Air Force. Took it to the local dealer for service – never ran right again. Only in the US are they Fix It Again Tony.
    They should have brought the larger Fiats and Lancia here instead of the Cinquecento.

    Have had my 500cc for 11 years and its been nothing short of splendid. Not sure of affordability but would jump at having one. We only have the Abarth version to look forward to at a monster markup on South Africa

    fiat needs to return to importing the ice 500’s. i own one; it’s a great ride. if it wants to do 500e’s, then the 42kwa model needs to be the base package, and, and 60kwa should be an upgrade. otherwise, in america, it will be doa.

    re ‘public citizen’, i love ralph and the puiblication, but rushing electric cars is silly; the infrastructure isn’t there yet, and auto production, regardless of power source, needs to be cut drastically, (as well as production of everything else), regardless of power source – the earth simply does not have the resources to sustain current production levels. even if we were 100% sustainable energy users TODAY, it still doesn’t change the fact that our planet would have to be 1.6 times its present size to recover from the the amount of resources we extract from it – and we do this EVERY YEAR. the damage is cumulative.

    I personally sold dozens of the original 500e. At the time it was by far the most engaging of the reasonably priced EVs. The primary competition was the Leaf, i3, eGolf, and Volt. It drove “like a real car” whereas the others–even the eGolf, all felt more like appliances. It looks like this time it will have the market segment mostly to itself since every other maker is mostly concentrating on CUVs, SUVs, and luxury-priced rides.

    NSX a legend reborn into a less than perfect sequel. Too bad it wasn’t nearly as good as it could have been. Still sad to see it go but the fact is no one is buying it now.

    Charging infrastructure? Oh don’t worry we took care of that with the infrastructure bill. /sarcasm
    Cart before the horse and not thought through to the benefit of anyone, except for those who stand to make money from it.

    I had the original Fiat 500e. To move them Stelanis offered a $99 lease special and they were snapped up in a week. Then they all came off lease at one time and since they were $40k no one wanted to buy them out. So stuck with a boatload of lease vehicles they were on eBay where I picked one up for $5900! The relatively light car with high torque and Abarth suspension was a lot of fun but about 75 mile range. Sold it for $7500 a year later.
    Overseas there is a version with a small rear 2nd door on the passenger side — will that come here? A convertible version would be super cool. Can’t wait!

    As for the Toyota Prius, at least they made it better looking. Regardless, between the ability of the grid to handle all the electric for semi’s and cars, of the ability to mine all the lithium they will need, I think hybrids are going to end up being the way to go. Who knows? If they come out with a better battery, that could all change in a heartbeat, but it will have to be a much better battery.

    I thought about a 500e a couple of years ago but waited until the the used prices doubled and I refused to pay that. For a local runabout I think a new 550e with 150 miles of range would be great. I do not want or need a huge vehicle with 600-1000 hp. for what? That is what my toy cars are for.

    we had a 2014 Fiat and it was a great car for the city, but it’s range really kept it only there. Now there are more charging stations, so taking it out of the city a little ways, then charging to get back would work. The great thing about the Fiat was that it was a fun little scooter ( unlike the Chevy bolt appliance that we have now), it was completely reliable over the first 3 years and it was so simple inside that it was almost a throw-back (they gave you a Tom-Tom to stick to the dash for navigation!). I fear that this new 500e wont be as simple -and reliable because of its simplicity – and try to compete with too much unnecessary tech. look forward to seeing the real deal.

    My purse strings dictate that the price of current EVs means it would be my primary vehicle. Even though I rarely drive more than 100 miles in a day, I want the option of being able to drive from LA to San Fran at night with the A/C on, which doesn’t seem like a current possibility unless I want to spend an hour at Harris Ranch to charge up… and that’s assuming all the charging stations are putting out their max. Plus all the nanny stuff on a new car makes me a little crazier than usual. Guess I’ll keep my 2012 Accord for another few years and put a Luddite sticker on the rear bumper.

    T Boone Pickens, before he died, tried to convince Congress that large trucks could be converted to natural gas. His oil drilling gave off tons of natural gas. He predicted it would take 30 years to produce and efficient electric semi trailer. Until then the clean burning natural gas would cover our needs

    T Boone Pickens, before he died, tried to convince Congress that large trucks could be converted to natural gas. His oil drilling gave off tons of natural gas. He predicted it would take 30 years to produce and efficient electric semi trailer. Until then the clean burning natural gas would cover our needs

    You have to wonder why when the do the math for EV and ICE vehicles they do not include today’s loss in the generation process?
    Or the losses incurred in transmission over distance?
    Or when demand is high the losses are greater?

    There is a place for transitioning, but first there needs to be some real discussions on the whole picture. Are there any environmental impacts due to raw materials being sourced for each technology? Same for the infrastructure. And how about disposal issues? Costs for new infrastructure needed and actual time expected to get it in place?

    I was changing tires on my neighbor’s golf cart the other day in a T-shirt and soaked it with sweat. I do not live in Florida. I hate electric cars, I don’t think they’ll work, but I can tell things ain’t quite right with the weather if I’m willing to pay attention

    The electric semi is one of the many things that is going to show the many holes in the electric car theory. Unfortunately I think we are going to hit the holes first and adjust later the way things are going. Aside from the charge time, the big magic word with semis is payload. The law generally restricts them to 80,000 pounds and the weight of the truck is a penalty. A conventional semi weighs about half of that empty… I can’t imagine what one loaded down with enough batteries to make it across several states without taking a stupid amount of time to charge in between is going to weigh

    I love the Fiat-e. I doubt it will make it here for one reason. Price. Pricing has killed many of the most wanted vehicles in the U.S. And small vehicles are being forced out with overpricing. Don’t fall for the “No one wants them” line that’s commonly heard. (It’s called up selling). A Prominent You Tuber (reviewer) stated that while crunching viewership numbers they discovered that the lighter the vehicle the more views it had and the heavier the vehicle the lesser views it had. That shows that car wants don’t match car purchases. I can attest to this, as I bought a
    Colorado in 2019 because it was the smallest truck at the time, and its way to big for me. Really wanted a small “small” truck. I hope the little EV makes it. If its above $30k, forget it!

    Regarding the “refreshed/improved” version of the Fiat 500e returning to the U.S. market; “those that don’t heed the lessons of history, are inclined to repeat its mistakes.”

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