Buyers of the upcoming Fiat 500e electric car will get an unusual benefit: the use of another car for free. Fiat will give 500e owners credits for 12 days' of car rentals from Enterprise Holdings, for the first three years of car ownership. The idea is to let drivers "borrow" a car with a longer driving range for the occasional long-distance road trip.
The program will be called ePass. Each year, Fiat will credit owners with enough bonus points for 12 days of car rentals from Enterprise, Alamo, or National. Shoppers could borrow a gasoline-powered sedan for an out-of-state trip, or even a pickup truck to help move furniture. Although the rental itself will be free, Fiat 500e owners would reportedly still be responsible for fuel and insurance on the rented car.
To keep things within the Chrysler Group family, 500e owners will only be able to rent certain vehicles under the program: a gas-powered Fiat 500, the upcoming Fiat 500L, and the Chrysler 200, as well as minivans and pickup trucks.
The decision is a smart way for Fiat to avoid the "range anxiety" that plagues buyers of EVs with short driving ranges. BMW recently announced it will have a similar program for the i3 electric city car, allowing owners to rent normal BMW cars for a few days per year.
The Fiat 500e has a 24-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that will give the small hatchback a driving range of 80 to 100 miles, depending on conditions. According to the EPA, the Fiat 500e will average 87 miles per charge and achieves 122/108 mpge (city/highway). Fiat claims the electricity used to charge up a 500e will cost about $500 per year.
The car will be available in California starting this summer, and may eventually launch in other states. Pricing has yet to be announced but will likely be around $25,000.