Customizable battery cell count means you can buy more range later
This year’s Geneva motor show was by no means light on electric cars, but not all of them were ultra-luxury concepts with sci-fi movie set interiors. Fiat’s Centoventi was a little more down to earth, named “one hundred and twenty” to celebrate the Italian automaker’s 120th anniversary.
For much of its history, Fiat has been about affordable cars, and the Centoventi concept should fit right in, giving the world a glimpse of an electric model that the automaker wants to become the most affordable EV on the market. We’ll say that again: Fiat wants a production version of this concept to be the most affordable EV out there, intending to put it into production in two to three years. And Fiat execs say that the production version should look pretty close to the concept the automaker showed in Geneva.
So what will it offer, besides a hatchback exterior and a low price?
Fiat’s take on a small EV is novel in that the basic battery pack is designed to be expandable. This means owners will be able to add more battery cells to the standard count if they wish to have more range. Drivers will be able to go from a base range of 62 miles (pretty skimpy if you ask us) to a maximum of 310 miles, which will represent the effective battery cell limit of this platform.
“But if a longer range is needed, up to 3 additional batteries, giving an increase of 62 miles each, can be purchased or hired,” Fiat says. “The extra batteries are installed underneath the floor of the car by the service network. A sliding rail, which supports and connects the batteries, makes their installation or removal particularly quick and easy. An additional battery, for mounting under the seat, is also available; it can be disconnected and put on charge directly in the user’s home or garage, just like the battery of a modern e-bike.”
The plug-and-play concept is taken further in the cabin, which is designed to house features that can be added by the owner. The cockpit is designed to be reconfigurable, with the dash featuring small holes into which different components can be added depending on user needs, using an interlocking mounting system that Fiat has patented. The door panels are designed to use this plug-and-play concept as well, which means drivers will be able to add a number of cupholders and storage pockets. In fact, the whole car is designed to be customizable — and not just when it comes time to pick out options when ordering this model.
“Fiat Concept Centoventi is fundamentally a ‘blank canvas’ ready to be painted to suit the customer’s tastes and needs at any time of their life, without customization restrictions linked to the time of purchase,” Fiat says. “In fact, it will be produced in just one color, which customers will be able to personalize using the “4U” program, with a choice of 4 roofs, 4 bumpers, 4 wheel covers and 4 external wrappings.”
The Centoventi concept had to fight for attention in Geneva amid a sea of electric supercars, but it was also one of the most promising concepts from the Italian automaker in years. If the production version debuts two to three years from now Fiat will have pulled off an impressive feat, following up on the decidedly unremarkable tenure of the electric 500e; that car landed a little too early for most EV buyers and didn’t offer enough range.
Fiat lost an eye-watering amount on each 500e sold, but the EV marketplace will be different when the production version of the Centoventi rolls off the assembly line. Let’s just hope that the global EV market will have grown by then — and not just in China where EVs and hybrids will be mandated soon — because the Centoventi will face a greater number of competitors in the same segment, including an electric version of the Mini Cooper.
Writer: Jay Ramey
Published: March 7, 2019