From the archive: Fiat's early electric efforts disappoint

Fiat Panda Elettra boot batteries

On top of all that, it cost the lira equivalent of £12,000 (about £26,270 in today’s money) – three times as much as a petrol Panda or about the same as a BMW 318i.

Fiat was, of course, aware of and bothered by these severe limitations. It soon announced a new nickel-cadmium battery chemistry for 1992, boosting the car’s power-to-weight ratio by half (but also its price) and had bought a French battery company to do zinc bromide and lithium R&D.

Laudably, it also wanted to solve the issues downstream, planning to open 20 methane-fuelled power plants by 1995 (whether it did so is unclear, but it has since sold more than 300,000 ‘natural power’ cars).

By 1992, Fiat had sold a decent 400 Panda Elettras, encouraging it to make an electric version of its latest baby hatch, the reborn 500, despite the need to strengthen the floor and suspension as the weight rose by more than 400kg to 1110kg.

Fiat Cinquecento Elettra side

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