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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Greetings from sunny California!
New member here, looking at doing a classic car conversion, and the 500e seems like an ideal donor. I'm a little surprised that I don't see more (or any, really) conversions based on the 500e. They're seriously cheap, and it would seem like an donor car. Am I just looking in the wrong place, or is there some flaw I'm missing?


Thanks,
-Zandr
 

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A Fiat 500 starts at USD $16,245 (new). That's a relatively cheap car.
A Fiat 500e starts at USD $33,995 (new). That's more expensive than the much more capable Nissan Leaf. Do you consider that "seriously cheap"? :confused:

The 500e exists only so that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) can comply with requirements to sell some number of zero-emission vehicles; that is what is meant by the term "compliance car". Since even at that price FCA loses money on them, there is no motivation for FCA to sell more than the minimum required. Again at that price, there's not much reason to anyone to buy them. The result is that there are probably not very many out there, and even fewer that anyone bought and now wants to sell cheaply.

I'm not surprised that you're not seeing conversions using 500e components. Where are you seeing cheap 500e's to salvage for parts?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Where are you seeing cheap 500e's to salvage for parts?

Craigslist. Going rate for a 2015 500e is $6000-8000.



More than that, there are seven cars listed on Copart right now, three of them 20 miles away. I don't know how to find price history for Copart auctions, but if the cars are $6k undamaged, they can't be much at salvage. In the one thread I found here on a 500e, the insurance buyback was $1000.


Also, I know the second generation Leaf is better, but the ones you'll find on the used market are 80kW motors and 24kWh batteries, without active cooling of the battery packs. In what way do you think the Leaf is "more capable" than the 80kW/24kWh 500e?


Yes, they're compliance cars, but I see them on the road *all the time* here in CA.
 

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Also, I know the second generation Leaf is better, but the ones you'll find on the used market are 80kW motors and 24kWh batteries, without active cooling of the battery packs. In what way do you think the Leaf is "more capable" than the 80kW/24kWh 500e?
The pre-2018 Leaf and the 500e are very comparable, although I assume that the Leaf has more interior room. The new price comparison is for a 2018 Leaf, with 40 kWh of battery and 110 kW motor; that's the "more capable" car for a lower price.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
So, again, I'm looking at doing a conversion of a classic car. This means the interior space of the donor is not really a factor.


Anyway, thanks for the warm welcome to the forum, I guess what I want to do isn't acceptable here.:confused:
 

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Craigslist. Going rate for a 2015 500e is $6000-8000.

More than that, there are seven cars listed on Copart right now, three of them 20 miles away. I don't know how to find price history for Copart auctions, but if the cars are $6k undamaged, they can't be much at salvage. In the one thread I found here on a 500e, the insurance buyback was $1000.
...
Yes, they're compliance cars, but I see them on the road *all the time* here in CA.
Thanks - this appears to be a local issue. Outside of California, I don't think you'll find those 500e's.

I did a quick search in AutoTrader for running 500e's and didn't find any; re-checking, I see that they are mis-classified with the model name "500", rather than "500e". Oops! They are out there, for about USD $8K and up. Since these $8K cars are as new as three years old, with very low mileage, and cost four times that when new, I can only guess that they have substantial repaired collision damage (okay as a source of swap components) or nearly dead batteries (a problem) - otherwise, why would they be so cheap?

While AutoTrader.com finds 348 500e's in all of the U.S., 188 (57%) of them are within 500 miles of Los Angeles. That seems to confirm that this is a local availability situation. Not a problem if you live where they are available, but it does provide one reason that you don't see many conversions using 500e components.
 

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So, again, I'm looking at doing a conversion of a classic car. This means the interior space of the donor is not really a factor.
Of course it isn't. I was just explaining - because you asked - why I consider the Leaf to be a more capable car, making the 500e over-priced (when new).

Anyway, thanks for the warm welcome to the forum, I guess what I want to do isn't acceptable here.:confused:
That's not what I said at all! :eek: I am interested in your project, and was wondering why you wanted to use the 500e.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I can only guess that they have substantial repaired collision damage (okay as a source of swap components) or nearly dead batteries (a problem) - otherwise, why would they be so cheap?

You think that every 500e on the used market has something significant wrong with it? These were almost entirely leased, so there's a glut of lease return cars out there. The compliance issue hasn't gone away, so there are still cheap leases on new ones, so people just lease a new one when the old lease is up.
 

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Another reason for the lack of conversions using 500e components would be that to use OEM bits in a DIY conversion you need to either transplant the entire control system of the vehicle, or make components work outside of the original vehicle. Only two brands of EV are plentiful enough to have attracted a lot of attention to the job of making their components (primarily the inverter) work in another vehicle: Tesla (Model S and X) and Nissan (Leaf). Some work as been done with others, such as the BMW i3, but I don't think you can just buy the equipment and plug it in to make those motors and inverters work in a DIY project. That doesn't mean other brands are not sources of good hardware, just that if you want to transplant a drive unit into your car and not have to reverse-engineer the donor and build custom components, there are limited choices.

If you are willing to buy (or build) an inverter - rather than using the one from the 500e - there is probably an inverter which can be configured to run the 500e motor. This has been done with other motors. The inverter is a substantial part of the expense, so not being able to use the OEM inverter reduces the value of the donor vehicle.

None of that means that using a 500e donor isn't "acceptable" or workable - it's just part of why conversions using the 500e (or anything other than a Tesla or a Leaf) are not common... which was the original question.
 

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You think that every 500e on the used market has something significant wrong with it? These were almost entirely leased, so there's a glut of lease return cars out there. The compliance issue hasn't gone away, so there are still cheap leases on new ones, so people just lease a new one when the old lease is up.
No, I was referring to $8K cars. A car which sells at the end of a short lease for 1/4 of the new price just seems suspect to me. Perhaps it only means that the market has assessed the new price to be much more than the car was worth. Maybe all lease-return EVs are good deals, and potential donors?
 

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Discussion Starter #11
No, I was referring to $8K cars. A car which sells at the end of a short lease for 1/4 of the new price just seems suspect to me. Perhaps it only means that the market has assessed the new price to be much more than the car was worth. Maybe all lease-return EVs are good deals, and potential donors?

They are, I think. The most expensive 500e on sfbay.craigslist.org is $10,850. This is just the going rate for these things. There's lots of supply, and demand isn't that high because a lease on a new one is still cheap.


brian_ said:
Another reason for the lack of conversions using 500e components would be that to use OEM bits in a DIY conversion you need to either transplant the entire control system of the vehicle, or make components work outside of the original vehicle.

Agreed, and I was planning on transplanting everything, even possibly making what my friend calls a "Hat Car", just placing the classic body on the "roller skate" of the donor.

The Leaf is another possibility, but the packaging of the drive unit is a problem. That's very tightly integrated, and it looks like it would be difficult to relocate any components of that stack. The 500e is built around the Bosch SMG180/120, and the looser integration makes packaging in a different shape much easier.
 

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... I was planning on transplanting everything, even possibly making what my friend calls a "Hat Car", just placing the classic body on the "roller skate" of the donor.
I haven't seen one of these that I would want (although that of course is just a matter of personal preference), but it might work for some combinations of donor and body. To work well, the classic body would need to match the donor in size, and to make sense it would need to a front-wheel-drive car. A major challenge is that all donor EVs (among cars, rather than commercial trucks) are unibody vehicles, so cutting the top off destroys the structure which must be replaced in some way; there are no EVs with a structural "skateboard". This would be a good subject for a separate build thread.
 

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The Leaf is another possibility, but the packaging of the drive unit is a problem. That's very tightly integrated, and it looks like it would be difficult to relocate any components of that stack. The 500e is built around the Bosch SMG180/120, and the looser integration makes packaging in a different shape much easier.
The early Leaf had separate drive unit, inverter, and charger, all mounted in a stack with external interconnecting cables. The later Leaf has the housings quite integrated, requiring custom cabling and housing modifications if they need to be separated. This is only an issue if there is not sufficient height available above the motor, and that of course depends on the body to be accommodated.

For an example, Alex's very tidy transplant of the Leaf drive unit into a classic Mini required removing the charger, but not the inverter. Nuts&Volts is working on a 300ZX Electric Conversion which removes the inverter from a 2013 Leaf motor.

Some of the lower-production EVs tend to use more separate components, presumably to avoid the cost of designing and tooling up for an integrated solution, and I agree that does become an advantage for re-use in a conversion. :)
 

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There are several companies that buy used and junked electric cars and export them.

Most used 500e s. Get exported to Europe and never have much chance to sell here.

This really sucks because it slows EV adoption by removing older EVs from the used market.

Repair parts also become rarer and more expensive
 

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There was a large surge of lease return 500e's about a year ago - and at that time the prices were around $6k. Since then as brian_ has been seeing the prices are back up above $8k. I have also wondered why these aren't used in more conversions since they are quite affordable and somewhat powerful. Fiat always joked to not buy one since they lose something like $10k on every one they sold (compliance car as was mentioned already).

If a person is looking a a 500e for a donor, one should also keep in mind the 2012 or newer smart-for-two which has around an 18kwh pack and 75hp? They are rear wheel drive too, which might make transplanting even easier!
Someone can double check me on those specs but that vehicle can be purchased as cheap as $5500 right now on cars.com... I've seen then sell on eBay for less. If a person were converting a 356 spyder replica or something lightweight the smart powertrain would also make for a pleasant machine!
 

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If a person is looking a a 500e for a donor, one should also keep in mind the 2012 or newer smart-for-two which has around an 18kwh pack and 75hp? They are rear wheel drive too, which might make transplanting even easier!
A Smart ForTwo is mid-engine (so a Smart ForTwo ED is mid-motor) and rear-wheel-drive, and an early enough one has the entire powertrain and suspension mounted to a convenient subframe. On the other hand being set up to drive the rear wheels is only an advantage if the classic car to be converted is rear-drive (or the goal is to make it that way)... and I don't recall reading what that classic car might be.
 

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The idea would probably not be to use the transaxle of the smart unless converting something with similar weight/track width, but rather to think of it as a 75hp motor/inverter and complete with BMS/charger 18kwh battery for the $4500. Endless debate could be carried out to decide best how to use the motor - but if a person is technically savvy enough to convert a vehicle to electric they should also be able to adapt a motor shaft to a driveline and obtain the proper reduction... One of the EV Parts websites had a few smart motors for sale some time ago (maybe they still do?). The same could also be done with a slightly more powerful fiat 500E!
 

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If a person is looking a a 500e for a donor, one should also keep in mind the 2012 or newer smart-for-two which has around an 18kwh pack and 75hp? They are rear wheel drive too, which might make transplanting even easier!
A Smart ForTwo is mid-engine (so a Smart ForTwo ED is mid-motor) and rear-wheel-drive, and an early enough one has the entire powertrain and suspension mounted to a convenient subframe. On the other hand being set up to drive the rear wheels is only an advantage if the classic car to be converted is rear-drive (or the goal is to make it that way)... and I don't recall reading what that classic car might be.
The idea would probably not be to use the transaxle of the smart unless converting something with similar weight/track width, but rather to think of it as a 75hp motor/inverter and complete with BMS/charger 18kwh battery for the $4500.
Okay, but the Smart ForTwo being RWD is only advantageous if using the transaxle and subframe; without them, it's just a bare motor and it doesn't matter where it was originally mounted or where it will be mounted.

I think every current production EV uses a transversely-mounted motor at or adjacent to the axle which it is driving, through a parallel-gear reduction transaxle. The Smart setup is absolutely conventional. Once the drive unit (motor and transaxle) is separate from the subframe and suspension, it doesn't matter what end of a car it came out of.

The Smart gear is at the smaller (and presumably lighter) end of readily available motors. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is comparable; the Leaf, e-Golf, 500e, Soul EV, etc are larger (and comparable to each other).
 

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Hello

John Here , im new to the forum.

But i have the same question as the thread author. Only the difference is ... Im from Europe , and i plan to do a conversion using a slightly beat-up 500e bought on copart/iaai .



One of the pro-ev converters (is that the right word ? :rolleyes:) Told me , that using a 500e drivetrain is hella-hard , because the bosch electric engine as well as the inverter (propably bosch as well) are pretty .... bosched-up .



Meaning it is very hard to control them or to steer them anyhow with off-the-shelf accesories / controlers , etc .



Would anyone know something about it ?
 

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I am also from Europe (Austria) and work on a convesion of an Off Road vehicle. At the moment we try to understand the CAN Bus of the 500e .
If you have any information on the Can bus please contact my friend Günther at www.fiat500e.eu!


Clemens
 
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