electric fiat

Electric Fiat 126 Vettura Urbana. 45 years of a groundbreaking prototype

Launched at the 2012 Los Angeles Motor Show, the 500e is presented as the standard-bearer for the electric FIAT. A friendly and manageable model with which the Italian brand reaches out to urban mobility in an electric key. Based on the reformulation of the 500 - largely successful thanks to its use of nostalgic rescue - this little electric FIAT is not as groundbreaking as it might seem. And it is that, Already in the distant 70s, Turinese engineers led by the designer Giovanni Michelotti raised two small electric urban cars for the brand.

Endowed with a futuristic name as if it had emerged from the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the FIAT X1 / 23 is still remembered 49 years after its introduction as one of the strangest experiments of the Agnelli's company. With an indefinite but practical shape thanks to its large glazed surface, this two-seater was thought to be the solution for complex urban mobility in narrow and historic Italian streets. All this presided over by the motorization through an electrical device capable of delivering 13,5CV.

However, the times were not yet sufficiently sensitized towards electrification. As it was, this electric FIAT was stored next to other prototypes never brought to series. A failure that, in truth, did not fall completely on deaf ears, since in 1976 Michelotti returned to the fray with the 126 Vettura Urbana. An interesting electric version of the popular FIAT 126 with a futuristic body with sliding doors. A whole laboratory of ideas that, 45 years later, is not remembered as much as the X1 / 23.


In the early XNUMXs, only a handful of ecologists saw the impending collapse of the world as we know it. Seen as apologists for chaos, they were successively removed from public debate, especially by questioning the use of finite fossil resources by definition. But nevertheless, the 1973 Oil Crisis brought to the fore the energy fragility of our societies. Fed by fuels brought from conflicting lands, Western countries suddenly experienced shortages. The images of the queues at the gas stations, as well as the rising price of oil, provoked obvious debates in the automobile industry.

The first resulted in the design of engines that were more moderate in consumption. The displacements were reduced and the mechanics became more efficient. The second was the emergence of interesting prototypes that tested new forms of mobility, especially in urban areas. Dominated by short tours, in this environment the importance of autonomy was reduced. An important fact, since prototypes such as the electric FIAT X1 / 23 only had about 80 km of circulation without the need for recharging. A negative point for the first electric cars, combined with their excessive weight.

And it is that, equipped with primitive batteries on the rear axle, the weight of this electric FIAT shot up to 820 kilos despite being a miniature compared to the large sedans of the moment. Quite a drag, promoted by the more than 160 kilos of batteries. Too much to move just two people at most. So things, the development of an electrical prototype with greater habitability was necessary and capacity to be manufactured in series. For this, Giovanni Michelotti and his team from the Centro Stile FIAT presented the Vettura Urbana in 1976 on the basis of the popular 126.


Often called fanciful and inefficient, electric vehicles have had a pretty rough ride to become a reality. And that, already in the 30s, companies like Detroit Electric they had developed these models so much that they came to be seen as something very normal. However, when we review their history we see more strange experiments than serious attempts to bring these cars to series. That is why the 126 Vettura Urbana is so important, since was thought on the basis of an existing popular utility. That is, it was made with the express idea of ​​being able to be brought into production as today the electric versions of the new Mini or the FIAT 500 are offered.

Unlike the X1 / 23, this electric FIAT already had capacity for four passengers. In addition, they can access the interior of the vehicle with total comfort thanks to the sliding doors. An invention that was not applied to a series urban vehicle until the appearance of the Peugeot 1007 in recent 2005, but that the 126 Vettura Urbana already rode 45 years ago. Interesting solution to improve its practicality that, however, failed to score points for its serial launch. In fact, the next electric born FIAT did not arrive until 1993 also in prototype form.

This is the FIAT Downtown. A car of more strange shapes than the Multipla, but extremely clever in approach, especially considering its autonomy of almost 190 kilometers running in urban cycle. Another attempt by the manufacturer to electrify itself, which had already launched in 1990 the Elettra Panda. A model developed in collaboration with the Italian Ministry of the Environment that was born with an outdated design. Yet another offshoot of the electric FIAT 126 Vettura Urbana. Ahead of his time who turns 45 in 2021.

Photographs: FIAT

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Miguel Sánchez

Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.


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