Fiat recently announced that it will be manufacturing an electric version of its cute li’l 500 automobile for the North American market, starting in 2012. If you can’t wait that long, however, you can get one in Europe right now – you just won’t be buying it from Fiat. The Italian automaker gave Swedish company EV Adapt permission to buy the stock 500, swap out the combustion motor for an electric one, and then resell the car as an EV. Sold as the CARe 500, the vehicle is now available throughout Europe. In an interesting move, buyers have the option of purchasing a battery-less car for a reduced price, and then renting its battery pack.

The CARe 500 has a 24kW three-phase AC motor, a top speed of 120kph (75mph) and a range of 120 km (75 miles). The battery pack consists of two sets of LiFePO4 battery cells, with a combined energy capacity of 15kWh. It recharges in 6-8 hours, via a standard 230V socket.

The price of the car, sans batteries, is €23,900 (US$32,697). Buyers who go this route pay a monthly fee of €150 (US$205), which includes batteries that will always be in good shape, and a flat amount that covers all of their electricity use. An onboard "smart meter" keeps track of how much juice is pumped into the batteries, and if owners spend over €150 in one month, then the difference will be deducted from the next month's payment. For owners who use their car a lot, this could be quite a good deal.

For people who would prefer to buy a car with the batteries included, prices start at €36,900 (US$50,481).

EV Adapt's CARe 500 is available via Care-Mobility (website is in German).