Quite a few people decided to be guineapigs for the EV1. Not enough for GM to turn a profit from them, but more than enough for a learning exercise. I'm not sure why you're comparing the current Fiat 500 to the one from the '50s. It's like comparing the current Beetle to the original Type 1 with the 1100cc engine. They are very different cars. The fist generation Prius was tiny and slow compared to the later more successful cars. If I were to judge the current Prius by the original, I would say they aren't worth driving.
I wasn't comparing the actual cars! Just pointing out the fact that (as another poster said just before you) Fiat doesn't exactly have an illustrious history in North America. I've owned a lot of quirky cars (including TWO different Renaults in the '50s/'60s time frame, a Dauphine and an R10)) but never a Fiat after my experience with that 500 my buddy had. Don't forget, some of the worst cars of the Soviet era were licensed versions of Fiats (Lada, Trabant, etc.). The whole point of most of this discussion is whether Fiat intended this car to just satisfy the CA bureaucrats that it fulfills the zero-emission mandate, or if they really expect to sell a bunch. MY point is that if they intended the latter, they are out of touch with the marketplace, just like GM and the Volt. Even if you just buy/license technology from your competition, it takes a huge investment to bring one of these to fruition. As a niche vehicle instead of a mass-market one, it just doesn't make sense.
Charles... this ease/safety of charging is always at the top of my list as to why the average American driver will not be going big in the near future on anything that requires a plug-in to be cost and fuel efficient.
This is the infrastructure that will take longest and be the most expensive to put in place too by my accounting.
Current PEV charging technology is not going to lead to the same quick pull into Wawa for coffee and be fully charged by the time I get to the cashier as is the case with petroleum, but it does need to become convenient... and at least a little forgiving of those 'I forgot to fill up/charge' moments (what ever that means, the tow truck gas can replaced by a small rental battery pack I guess).
Who would buy a 60 mile range car? Many if the fuel price was $.01-.02/mile. Many seniors here in Fla already drive much slower, shorter range EV's very happily at very low cost.
Interestingly the first EV I ever saw was a Fiat 600 conversion back in 64.
Sadly this EV isn't designed to succeed using overpriced, overteched EV drives, batteries when much more cost effective, lighter, more EV subcars is what we really need at $10k they could be produced for if they wanted too.
But they don't and this one is just done as a compliance vehicle, not to succeed.
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