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New electric Fiat 500 goes green bonkers with claims of eco-revolution and a pebble key fob

The new Fiat 500e was slated for its launch in early March at the canceled Geneva International Motor Show. Instead, Fiat chief Olivier François stars in an 18-minute virtual press conference for the new 500, which is exclusively electric. What unfolds in those few minutes is a jaw-dropping display of greenwashing, complete with a natural pebble key fob, melodic EV pedestrian acoustics, Leo DiCaprio name-drops, a paint job that supposedly cleans the air, and claims of an eco-revolution.

François introduces the film version of the unveiling from the streets of Milan, eerily shot days before the pandemic hit hard. The Muse by Clio website, which celebrates creativity in advertising, explains the use of three iconic Italian fashion houses in the 500e marketing campaign.

In the film, the Fiat CEO, who is also Fiat-Chrysler’s chief marketing officer, conjures up the 1957 birth of the original 500 minicar as a “social revolution” following the devastation of war. He claims the new, third-generation Fiat 500 plays a similar role today:

Now we are on a pivotal moment. Our dear Cinque­cento is coming back to help us pull off an even bigger miracle. An eco-revolution.

Everyone wants the world to go green, right? But not everybody is ready to trade their beautiful car that’s fun to drive for an electric appliance.

We’re all in. It’s all electric, and only electric, from Day One.

François shares a few of the specs before the earth-saving really begins. He explains that it will have 320 kilometers (200 miles) of range on the WLTP cycle ­— or 400 kilometers (250 miles) if only considering city driving. It has 85kW fast-charge capability, and a branded home-charging wall box comes standard. There’s also something called “Sherpa mode,” which is supposed to make sure you get to your destination safely but isn’t explained.

The new Fiat 500e is described as the “first small car to bring Level 2 autonomy to the city.” It’s hard to say, but there appears to be a claim that the car is “autonomous.”

François talks about the 500e’s unique pedestrian-warning sound. He compares the sounds emanating from competing EVs, which he calls a “sea of sameness.” Then he plays the 500e’s piece of chamber music with a techno twist. It’s at 8:42 in the video if you want to fast forward.

You hear that? It’s definitely a conversation piece. 500 has the only engine able to play a melody. They will be like the ring tones of your phone, interchangeable, downloadable, customizable. It’s not the voice of a computer. It is the voice of the Italian creative spirit.

2020 Fiat 500e

The dimensions of the new 500 are more practical than the outgoing version, with a wider, longer body ­— and wheels pushed to the corners. The interior also looks cleaner, with fewer buttons. But it’s the environmental design features that stand out:

  • A cute little pebble that serves as the key fob “designed to feel, natural, relaxing, and eco-sustainable”
  • Interior materials woven from reclaimed plastic from the sea
  • A first edition, to be sold in quantities of 500 per country, with three color choices: earth, sea, and sky
  • Three one-of-a-kind models for auction, including one by Georgio Armani that uses a matte paint with the “air purifying power of 10 square meters of leaves.”
Fiat 500e key fob

Fiat 500e key fob

“It’s like having a tree on four wheels,” says François.

The auction will benefit Leonardo DiCaprio’s environmental cause, which isn’t named.

We should know more about the 500e in July. The filmed solo press conference closes with a “save the date” message for Turin, Italy, on July 4.

Electrek’s Take

As we mentioned in early March, the new Fiat 500e will sell for around €32,000 ($35,500). It’s not clear yet when it’s coming to the United States, and if it will be sold only in so-called ZEV states, like its predecessor. Currently, Fiat-Chrysler offers one plug-in vehicle in the US, the Pacifica Hybrid.

Olivier François admitted to Autocar last month that the new 500e is at least partly motivated by the need to meet CO2 regulations. He didn’t mention that Fiat-Chrysler is siding with the Trump administration in a lawsuit opposing California’s clean air standards.

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Avatar for Bradley Berman Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others.