The zero-emission Fiat Palio Elétrico, a joint research venture between Fiat Brazil, a national energy giant and a huge hydroelectric dam concern, is now set to be put into limited production after successful initial trials.

The car is the result of a 5-year project and it has been demonstrated around Brazil since being unveiled in June of last year. The ambitious programme saw Brazilian electric-generating energy concern Companhia Energetica de Minas Gerais (Cemig) and Itaipu Binacional, who operate the world's largest hydroelectric dam project, teaming up with the Research & Development arm of Fiat Automóveis, which has also involved Magneti Marelli in Brazil and Centro Ricerche Fiat (CRF) in Turin, to realise a zero-emission car that could be cost-effectivly priced and practical to manufacture. The three partners have spend around 3.4 million reals (US$1.8 million) on the programme so far.

The resulting prototype, dubbed as the Palio Elétrico, puts out 15 kW (20 CV) and a maximum 50 Nm of torque. Being electric the car offers the advantage of emitting no noise on the road. Top speed is a respectable 105 km/h while the car weights in at just 600 kg, with the electric motors being 42 kg and the batteries 165 kg. The replacement of the engine with the compact electric motor has improved weight distribution: now 48 percent is concentrated at the front compared to 63 percent on the 1.0-litre standard model. The conventional gearstick arrangement has been replaced with a 3-position lever offering the driver the option of drive, neutral and reverse. A new instrument panel offers the driver useful information on the electrical system including battery life, load and temperature. The brake servo is now electrically operated.

The nickel batteries used the Palio Elétrico are produced in Switzerland by KWO, who have been closely involved in the project from the beginning. The batteries are located in a reinforced section (designed for maximum safety in major accidents) under the boot floor where the spare wheel well is situated, and in final production form they are expected not to make any additional demands on the existing loading space.

The batteries are recharged through an electric plug (able to hook up to any household cable though a typical wall socket) which is positioned behind the flush fitting flap where the production Palio's fuel filler pipe is usually located. A 110V or 220V power supply can be used for charging, and just 16A is required (less than needed by a household shower) with the batteries heated to 270 degrees centigrade before charging commences. Charging can also be undertaken in any number of short bursts without any damage to the batteries.


The Palio Elétrico is recharged through an electric plug (able to hook up a household cable) which is positioned behind the flush-flap where the production model's fuel filler cap is usually located.


The zero-emission Fiat Palio Elétrico prototype, a joint research venture between Fiat Brazil, a national energy giant and the world's largest hydroelectric dam, is set to be put into limited production.

To address the toxic concerns associated with nickel batteries they will be part-recyclable and part-biodegradable. At present one drawback of this electric car project is the 8-hour full recharge time needed, but all partners in the project are pushing forward to develop technology which will reduce the time involved. They are rated at a life of 150,000 kilometres. Fully charged the range is 110 kilometres in the extra-urban cycle or 120 km in the urban cycle. Its range advantage around town is due to a small alternator that charges the batteries when in decelerating mode. This function can be activated by the driver via a dashboard-located button and up to 20 km can be added to the range through this. KWO are presently evaluating building a new factory located near Fiat's Betim plant in the Minas Gerais state to manufacture the batteries.

Now after significant trials, 30 examples of the Palio Elétrico will be built for use by Cemig at its energy plants. Cemig today operates 48 power plants, of which 44 are hydroelectric, 3 are fuel-oil thermal plants while the last one is a small wind power plant, all of them totalling an installed capacity of 5,704 MW. "Up to 2008, the goal is for this to become a viable prototype, to harmonise parts, to lower costs, to increase autonomy and to lower the recharge time,"  said Carlos Eugęnio Dutra, Fiat Automóveis' Product Director.

One of the main objectives of the project is to convince Brazilian car buyers that electric vehicles (EV) are a viable option in the showrooms and that they don't need to run vehicles that rely on fossil fuels. EVs have now topped 300,000 units sales per year in Europe and many cites offer this type of vehicle fiscal advantages, such as in London where they attract lower levels of taxation and are exempt from the inner city's 'Congestion Charge'.

Itaipu has been involved in EV projects for five years and since 2005 it has worked in partnership with Cemig who have supported the large investments required to realise programmes in this area. These two firms have been working with Fiat Automóveis and its own technical partners as well as CRF. The parties expect electric cars to become economically feasible and more widely accepted by Brazilian car buyers around 2011-12. Economies of scale and technological advances expected to be made in the next 5 years will help to bring overall production costs down.

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