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Fiat, Mitsubishi and Tesla announce new electric vehicles

Fiat, Mitsubishi and Tesla all confirmed recently that they have new electric vehicles coming in 2012, 2013 and 2014, respectively.

Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne tweeted the news that an electric version of the Fiat 500 would start production by the end of this year, presumably to go on sale soon after that. The official tweet read: “At Chrysler we are working on an electric version of the Fiat 500 that we’ll begin manufacturing later this year.”

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Whether that means a market introduction in 2012 or 2013 is still up in the air, though a Chrysler Canada spokesperson confirmed this week that the 500 EV is expected to be sold in Canada, to compete with the new-generation Smart fortwo EV from Mercedes-Benz that is slated to arrive here this fall.

As of early this week, potential EV rivals like the electric versions of the Toyota iQ and the Honda Fit were still not confirmed to be coming to Canada, though Toyota will showcase its RAV4 EV at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto.

The Woodstock, Ont.-built Toyota RAV4 EV will compete against the next-generation Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in, which will make its official public debut at the Geneva auto show in March. Mitsubishi just released photos of the upcoming Outlander, and confirmed that the range-extended EV will be on sale in its 2012 fiscal year, which ends in March, 2013, and “will use a plug-in hybrid system derived from MMC’s already existing EV technology.”

The all-new gas Outlander is expected to arrive later this year, with technologies such as stop/start, upgraded safety systems and a nicer interior.

The most intriguing announcement was of Tesla’s Model X crossover. Its signature feature is what Tesla calls its “falcon-wing” rear doors. They’re similar to the SLS’s gullwing doors in that they open upwards, but an extra hinge on the floor means they can also be folded inward toward the body of the vehicle. This should help avoid the many head knocks that plague SLS drivers and passengers. The company insists these doors are not “concept” features, but headed for production.

Since it uses the same flat battery architecture of the upcoming Model S sedan, there’s cargo room at the back and at the front, even if all seven seats are occupied, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said at a media preview. The all-wheel-drive Model X will feature the top two battery packs as the Model S, at 60 and 85 kilowatt-hours, which Tesla says in the S sedan will provide (likely best-case) ranges of 370 and 480 kilometres, respectively.

Due to the Model X’s 10 per cent higher weight, it will have a range of about 10 per cent less than the sedan when it goes on sale early in 2014, Tesla estimated. But as well as zero local emissions, it will also be as quick as many high-end sports cars, with a sprint from 0 to 96 km/h in 4.4 seconds.

The Acura ZDX-ish shaped Model X will reportedly start at about $60,000, with a fully loaded one approaching 100 large. That’s right around Porsche Cayenne territory – and much less than the similarly speedy Cayenne Turbo.
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