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The US is too hooked on trucks and SUVs for Fiat’s new 500 EV

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Beware the big vehicle hegemony

Images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has unveiled a new version of its fully electric Fiat 500 with nearly 200 miles of range and a revamped design. But like most small city cars, especially ones that are electric, the new Fiat 500 EV is unlikely to come to the US, which is a total shame.

The Fiat 500 EV is a great example of the kind of vehicle that makes a lot of sense for cities and maybe even some suburbs. It’s electric, so it won’t spew pollution into the air. It’s small, so it takes up less space and is, on balance, less dangerous to pedestrians, cyclists, and other people who share the road.

The new version of the Fiat 500 EV is also, at least on paper, pretty capable. It squeezes 199 miles of range out of 42kWh battery pack. That’s on the European test cycle, so an EPA estimate would likely be lower, but it’s still plenty of range to handle almost all daily driving, even outside of big cities. It can fast-charge at up to 85kW, which adds 30 miles in five minutes or fills the battery from 0 to 80 percent in 35 minutes. It’s quick, with 87kW of power (around 117 horsepower) on offer. And at £29,000 (roughly $37,500), it’s not crushingly expensive, especially after tax credits.

It also has the kinds of amenities you’d expect in any modern car. There’s a 10.25-inch touchscreen that runs FCA’s new Uconnect 5 software, which has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. And the car is outfitted with a number of driver assistance and safety features like adaptive cruise control and lane centering.

FCA says it is “evaluating [the Fiat 500 EV’s] potential for the North American market.” But let’s be real: it’s likely not coming Stateside, especially after Fiat recently pulled both the combustion engine 500 and the original electric 500 from the US market after sales cratered from a peak of nearly 34,000 combined sales in 2014 to just 1,700 in 2019.

That decline mirrors the recent explosion of SUV and truck sales in the US. While consumers are still wrapping their minds around electric cars, drivers in the US have become hooked on big, bulky vehicles with high riding positions and more utility than they’ll ever need. The trend — which FCA’s own Ram truck lineup has helped exacerbate — has gotten so outrageous that some people now own trucks and SUVs that are too big to fit in their garages.

That’s left little to no room for cars like the new Fiat 500 EV or even smaller options like Citroen’s new Ami “quadricycle” and the Microlino (which were also “announced” at the canceled 2020 Geneva Motor Show this week). Some, like the new BMW Mini E, will slip through. But given what we saw during yesterday’s big “EV Day” from General Motors, it shouldn’t be surprising if companies continue to focus on big, aggressively styled vehicles as they shift to electric power, especially since bigger vehicles are more expensive and can help absorb the still-high costs of an automotive battery pack.

Unless something changes, then, the new Fiat 500 EV will be an option for Europe and other markets only. There are still plenty of similarly priced (and far more capable) electric vehicles on sale right now in the US, so it’s not like this would have been the only — or even the best — option for anyone who’s looking for a car that doesn’t spew pollution into the air. But as more cars like the Fiat 500 EV avoid the US market, the less diverse our options get.