Fiat 500e (OJ) Has an Issue

Our new Fiat 500e: OJ
Our new Fiat 500e: OJ

First, I love our electric Fiat 500e. It’s small. No, it’s tiny1. It fits anywhere. It’s easy to park. Like any electric car, it drives smoothly and responsively with a great deal of torque. It’s just the perfect urban, city-dwellers’ car.

But it has a huge issue, and I mean huge!

It’s designed to be driven every day. No one told us this fact. Since we can easily not be in San Francisco for a month or even two, our Fiat 500e will often sit undriven but plugged in to the charger. One would think you just arrive back into the city, hop in the car, and head off to someplace fabulous. Right?

No.

When we return to the city from the east coast, the car is dead, and I do mean dead. Completely dead. The app shows it is 100% charged and ready to drive (because the car is plugged in), but it just sits there totally lifeless.

This has happened to us twice now, well, every time we’ve been away and returned to the city.

How is this possible?

Well, the car apparently has two separate battery systems. One of them is the drivetrain system and is charged when you plug the car into the charger on the wall when you park.

The other battery system runs numerous systems including locking/unlocking the car, all of the lights, the instrument cluster, turning the car on, communicating with the web so your app knows where the car is, it’s charge level, temperature, etc. This second battery system runs in the background even when the car is turned off and sitting happily in it’s garage.

Tragically, this second system completely drains the small battery under the hood in less than 4 weeks! You’ve got to be kidding me! Why can’t it trickle charge from the main drivetrain battery system when it’s plugged in. But, no. One would need another charger, called a trickle charger, to do that. We can’t install one in our garage because we live in a skyscraper with no regular wall outlets in the garage.

Had we know this fact, we would have never leased the car. It renders it too cumbersome to use with our typical driving schedule. So, until our lease ends, at which point we will get rid of the car and search for another tiny electric car solution, we have to plug the small battery into a portable charger to bring the small battery system back to life so we can turn the car on.

Fiat, really?! Our Leaf doesn’t have this issue. Our Tesla doesn’t have this issue. I know your CEO is angry you’re losing money on your 500e, but you still need to get the engineering up to speed.2

Charging Our Fiat 500e
Charging Our Fiat 500e

  1. on the outside but roomy on the inside 

  2. It’s an interesting tale, actually. In order to sell the Fiat/Chrysler car and truck brands in California, Fiat/Chrysler has to sell a certain percentage of electric cars. To sell their gasoline powered vehicles in this enormous market, Fiat/Chrysler had to create the 500e. They still didn’t meet the state’s quota and had to purchase carbon credits from Tesla, causing Fiat/Chrysler to lose money on the 500e. Way to go California. Force industry to be responsible citizens of our planet! This is one of the reasons I love this state.