One Fiat 500 + electric forklift motor = Fiat 500 E
By C.C. Weiss
May 11, 2012
While we wait for the official Fiat 500 electric - a car that makes all kinds of sense given the 500's small, fuel efficient build - two German manufacturers have teamed up to give us an alternative. The 500 E from Karabag and Linde trades its gas engine for an electric forklift motor.
Karabag is a Hamburg-based manufacturer that offers a variety of aftermarket-equipped electric vehicles. Linde Hydraulics doesn't manufacture automobiles, but it brings an expertise in electric drive components from products like tractors and forklifts. It's the latter that motivates the 500 E, specifically a 28 kW (37 hp) electric motor pulled out of Linde's forklift fleet. Linde also supplies accompanying equipment like a converter and control unit.
The result of the partnership is an EV that's modest (to be polite) in every way imaginable ... except price. With its underwhelming 37 horses, the 500 E travels up to 62 miles (100 km) and hits speeds up to 65 mph (105 km/h). So, it's hardly fast enough to take on your local interstate and will be lucky to make it three towns over and back.
The 500 E is described as a city car, so we can excuse the short range and low speed. Harder to digest is Karabag's insistence that it's an affordable alternative to a gas vehicle. The purchase price for the 500 E is €34,999 (about US$45,000), which is well over the price of other EVs with greater range and speed capabilities. So not only is it not comparable to gas vehicles (the regular 500 is listed at around 12,000 euros on Fiat's German site), but it's not even all that comparable to electrics.
Where Karabag works to massage a comparison is in its €299 ($390) lease price. That doesn't seem all that cheap at first, but after Karabag factors in the lowered cost of fuel, insurance, maintenance, and a few other tricks, its numbers come up about 50 euros in favor of the 500 E. It seems like quite a stretch to us, but actual consumers will make the final decision.
These issues aside, we always like to see aftermarket companies filling the void of electric vehicles by equipping existing models with electric motors. For a more capable (but still expensive) example, take a look at the AMP Jeep Grand Cherokee we covered earlier this year. You can also see the 500 E in a little more detail in the below video.