SA’s only Fiat e500

No slouch be­tween the lights, this hatch uses no petrol whatsover

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - AL­WYN VILJOEN

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.

PHO­TOS: DANIEL MALAN

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.

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