We drove the Panda and 500 Mild Hybrid: mildfullness gets you going…

One would indeed create a new “mildful” English word for it: the o so clever way Fiat sees hybrid propulsion as a mild mobility solution for everybody.

Mild for nature, and also gentle for your purse. The Fiat engineers found the simple, straightforward solution of using a Belt-integrated Starter Generator to capture the kinetic energy you want to reduce and give it back the moment you want to build it up again.

Indeed, in urban stop and go traffic, reducing and gaining speed is actually the main thing you do. And this is where Fiat helps you with mild cleverness.

We tested it all for you in the medieval city center of Bologna. And were convinced. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Gentle technology with a touch of genius.  

We heard it all at the presentation in Bologna. Carlo de Marino, global engineer of the Firefly Engine Family (see photo above) explained us in detail the merits of this 999 cc three cylinder engine and the hybrid system coupled to it.

First let’s focus on the hybrid system. The BSG (Belt-integrated Starter Generator) system is mounted directly on the engine (see photo above) and is operated by the belt that also drives the auxiliaries. The system recovers energy during braking and deceleration, stores it in a lithium battery with a capacity of 11 Ah, and uses it, at a peak power of 3,6 kW, to restart the engine in Stop&Start mode and to assist it during acceleration.

This technology allows the internal combustion engine to switch off, even at speeds below 30 km/h, simply by shifting into neutral (the dashboard, which displays information on the hybrid system, prompts the driver when to do so). In coasting mode, the lithium battery powers all services, ensuring the driver has full control of the vehicle.

The Mild Hybrid propulsion unit is combined with a 6-gear C514 manual transmission “evolution”, which has new low-friction bearings and gaskets, uses a specific high-efficiency lubricant. The gearbox sits 45 mm lower and is better supported, making for supersmooth gearchanges, which we indeed experienced during our drive.

The FireFly engine itself is tuned for utter docility, and develops 70 HP and 92 Nm of torque, the latter at a mild 3500 rpm. But as said, the starter generator helps at low revs when driving away and restarting. We drove the Panda Cross during most our test drive, keen to test out the hybrid system and get good photos of the car in the beautiful Bologna inner city, with a short stint behind the wheel of the Cinquecento.  

Indeed, we were impressed by the silence and velvety smoothness of this engine, and the slick gearbox where gearchanges could be done with your fingertips. The whole system also tempts you into adopting a fluent, quiet driving style, with the engine remaining totally vibrationless from 1200 rpm or so. The gearchange indicator also invites you to stay below 1700 rpm or thereabouts, and the driving experience is then one of silent mildness indeed.

When driving gently through city streets and boulevards, with the engine being barely audible both to bystanders and occupants, the instrumentation tells you about the merits of coasting, and indeed, shifting the slick gearchange lever into neutral will stop the engine and let you coast gently along, doing exactly what all the environmentally conscious tell you to do: recuperate kinetic energy by gently rolling to a stop, adopting good anticipation and judicious driving.

If you still have to use the brakes, it is then nice to see how the generator recuperates the energy, and gives it back when starting away again. Of course, this has its good results: Fiat claims a reduction of 30 % in your average fuel consumption, and indeed, it took no effort at all to reach values between 4 and 5 litres/100 km in the Bologna streets. Of course, it takes a fluent driving style at low revs, that goes without saying. The manufacturer quotes 3,9 l/100 km as average consumption , and emissions are as low as 89 g CO2/km.

Performance is more than adequate with a quoted top speed of 155 km/h and 14,7 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h.

Durability and low service costs…

The designers of the FCA Mild Hybrid System not only kept the Hybrid system efficient and simple, also the 3 cylinder “evergreen” FireFly engine underwent some changes to enhance serviceability. The unit has here a single overhead camshaft, two valves per cylinder with continuously variable timing and last but not least chain driven timing.  

Your servant with the Panda Hybrid in front of the stunning Eataly Fico Food Show Fair…

But also other aspects of running costs are kept low.

Customers also benefit from all the advantages of going hybrid (the car is Euro 6D Final-compliant, for instance), which, depending on local regulations, include freedom of access and movement in city centers, cheaper parking in town centers and tax breaks.

The philosophy of designing and building a Hybrid system for everybody is also reflected in the very moderate extra cost of the Hybrid system compared to the standard layout(s). Indeed, the Panda Mild Hybrid Launch Edition is available in our country for slightly over 13.000 Euros…  

A Hybrid Launch Edition with a distinct “green” touch…

The 500 and the Panda are today, for the first time, together in a single special series: the Hybrid Launch Edition.

The special series can be recognized by the “Hybrid” sign written on the rear and the exclusive “H” logo, formed by two leafs with dew drops, on the center panel. Dew – the symbol of the light of dawn and therefore of the beginning of a new era – has been used also as inspiration for the “Dewdrop Green” exterior on both cars.

Charles Fuster, EMEA region marketing manager explaining the Seaqual initiative…

On the inside, the seat upholstery is faithful to the sustainable philosophy of the entire project. The Launch Edition seats are the first in the automotive sector to be partly made with SEAQUAL® YARN, the weaving of which produces a special material, certified by SEAQUAL INITIATIVE, derived from recycled plastic: 10% of which originates from the sea and 90% from land.

This SEAQUAL® YARN is produced by transforming plastics collected from the sea into flakes of polyethylene terephthalate. These flakes are then used in the yarn from which the fabrics are made. In the weaving phase, marine polyester is mixed with other environmentally friendly, natural, recycled or recovered fibers. This green process is completed by the application of dyes and environment-friendly finishes based on the saving of water and energy. Fiat is collaborating with SEAQUAL INITIATIVE to support ocean clean-ups to take action against marine litter.

Conclusion

The philosophy of designing this Mild Hybrid System certainly took hold with us. It is clever, effective, smooth and last but not least comes at a very small extra cost. All this completely in line with the unique talent Fiat has well honed over decades: to build small, compact cars which are simply among the best in the world in their class.

They now take this art a “green” step further with these Mild Hybrids, and there is even more to come. Just watch out for the next Geneva Motor Show: it will see the birth of the first “full electric” 500…

Hans Knol ten Bensel