SA’s only Fiat e500
No slouch between the lights, this hatch uses no petrol whatsover
CAPE TOWN — He does not play in the same league as Elon Musk of Tesla fame, but Antony English of Krugersdorp is another man with a vision when it comes to electric vehicles.
English’s company, Freedom Won, has converted the world’s first Land Rover Defender to run on batteries only and his all-electric Jeep Cherokee has raced up Sani Pass and across Hakskeenpan.
English has now also converted a Fiat 500 to run on amps and drove this e500 in carefully planned stages of 400 km a day from Krugersdorp to Cape Town, where its 77-year-old owner awaited.
The bank of lithion-ion batteries in the Fiat 500 is good for 200 km, and can be recharged in a few hours.
English explained his vision with Freedom Won is to introduce affordable and effective electric conversions to South Africa, combining the latest reasonably priced components with Freedom’s advanced system design.
The owner of the electric 500, a retired doctor, bought the shell of the cute Fiat for about R100k, and then had Freedom Won convert it to be fully electric for another quarter of a million rand.
English said an average conversion varied between R250 000 and R350 000, excluding VAT and a donor vehicle. The final cost is dependent on the range, power requirements and type of vehicle selected for the conversion.
In lieu of explaining the ampere hours from the batteries and the enormous torque the electric motor exerts on the front axle, we asked a former 500 owner and race car builder Daniel Malan to waylay the e500 at his Mankind studio in Cape Town and then drive it like he stole it.
Malan said while the heavier e500 would not hold a candle to his Fiat 500 Abarth edition, the little electric car was no slouch between the traffic lights either. “Its acceleration compares very favourably with the likes of the lively Chevrolet Spark. Even with three people on board and all those batteries in the back we managed a 0 to 100 run in roughly 16 seconds,” he said.
Malan, who has also specced and marketed the two-seater touring cars built by Tony Marton in Prospecton, cautioned the extra weight of the batteries means the standard brakes are no longer efficient at high speeds.
“The brakes however work fine to bring the electric 500 to a stop while driving at Cape Town’s typical bumper-to-bumper speeds,” he added.
English said he believes more electric vehicles can drive on SA’s roads without big investments in mass production plans or heavy reliance on government subsidies as was the case with the abortive Joule car. “Freedom Won is currently capable of converting most vehicles to electric power with electric motors available up to a maximum continuous power of 80 kW.”
English said electric cars are not only exciting for the everyday commuter in terms of fuel savings, which for taxis are up to 80%, but provide excellent opportunities for niche market penetration, including: • Electric game viewing vehicles with silent and smooth operation and powerful 4x4 ability; • Mine light vehicles in pit mines as well as underground operations; • Airport vehicles, for general delivery and apron services; and • Farming vehicles, from general purpose 4x4 runabout to specialised sprayers.
South Africa’s first and so far only all-electric Fiat 500 was recently driven from Krugersdorp to Cape Town, where Wheels correspondent Daniel Malan drove it like he stole it.
The electric motor of the electric Fiat sits in the usual spot under the hood, providing instant torque to the front wheels for lively performance.
The boot is packed with batteries to give the e500 a range of about 200 km.