The first Fiat 500s sold in the U.S. will, in fact, be gasoline powered, but Chrysler has indicated its engineering teams are hard at work preparing an electrified variant. Although a 500 EV is still at least two years away from dealer showrooms, it is moving closer to reality -- in fact, it was announced today that Chrysler has inked a deal to purchase battery packs for the car from SB LiMotive.
The company, a joint venture between German auto supplier Bosch and Korean firm Samsung, has been charged with engineering, developing, and producing the lithium-ion battery packs for the small 500 EV. Development is currently under way in SB LiMotive's offices in Orion, Michigan (a stone's throw away from Chrysler's Auburn Hills HQ), but production will be an international affair. Battery cells will be built in Korea, but assembled into finalized battery packs in a facility in Springboro, Ohio. From there, completed packs will be shipped to Chrysler's factory in Toluca, Mexico, which builds 500s for North America.
Although Chrysler has shown what was allegedly a 500 EV prototype at the 2010 Detroit auto show, the automaker has been surprisingly mum on the details of its electrified hatchback. SB LiMotive breaks the car down into three primary subsystems: an electric powertrain module, an EV control module, and a lithium ion battery pack. SB LiMotive may be providing the latter, but Chrysler itself is apparently engineering the other two components.
Interestingly, SB LiMotive wasn't always the front runner for this contract. According to the Detroit News, A123 Systems had initially earned the contract, but the battery manufacturer withdrew from the deal. According to the company, A123 couldn't compete from a pricing perspective, especially when production volumes were revised to a lower-than-expected number.
"SB LiMotive earned this business because we can supply high-quality lithium-ion battery packs in the quantities needed, on-time to the market," said Dr. Joachim Fetzer, executive vice president of SB LiMotive, in a prepared statement. "We look forward to partnering with Chrysler in bringing this exciting new vehicle to market."
Exciting, perhaps, but we're more interested in seeing how the conventional 500 fares in North America. The little retro-styled subcompact is due for a U.S. launch in a matter of weeks, but the company has yet to announce finalized U.S. pricing. Regardless, expect electric versions to command several thousand dollars more than their gasoline-powered siblings.
Source: SB LiMotive, The Detroit News