Damon’s Fiat 500e project

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Damon’s Fiat 500e project

Post by Damon500 » Fri, 31 Aug 2018, 17:57

Hi, I have been working on a project since the beginning of 2018 to import a Fiat 500e from California with the aim of building a RHD road legal version.
I finally purchased a 2016 500e ‘donor’ with 13000km in San Diego in April which after considerable effort finally arrived in Melbourne this week. I also have purchased a local RHD 2017 model as a recipient of the EV drivetrain.
It will be an interesting project that doesn’t appear to have been done elsewhere in the world and does present a lot of challenges both in modification of the body to accept the battery packs as well as reconfiguring the wiring loom for RHD.
The local European RHD version is built in Poland and the EV is built in Mexico so there are already quite a number of differences apparent but it has some interesting technology with full thermal management of the battery pack as well as all the usual modern car features.
I’m certainly very impressed with how it drives and looking forward to the end result!
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Re: Damon’s Fiat 500e project

Post by tassie_tiger » Fri, 31 Aug 2018, 19:49

This is a very exciting project - looking forward to hopefully many updates and photos.
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Re: Damon’s Fiat 500e project

Post by Damon500 » Fri, 31 Aug 2018, 20:59

Getting started...
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Re: Damon’s Fiat 500e project

Post by Damon500 » Sat, 01 Sep 2018, 17:44

Here’s a reply to some questions in the other thread about the project..
I purchased my 500e as a damaged vehicle which had a fairly minor hit high up on the drivers side and it was still driveable but partially stripped. I didn’t want to buy a ‘complete’ car because it was going to be unregisterable here anyway even if converted and I was unsure at the time if I would need to cut it in half to import it.
The bonnet is steel on the e- same as regular 500 - I bought a new ‘hood’ and ‘fender’ for it in the US and had it partially reassembled before export to protect it- they are just currently in their shipping primer. The body also will have another use afterwards as part of the import approval so I needed it to look complete- it also had the fringe benefit of allowing me to road test it and sort out a few minor issues prior to dismantling it.
I’m not planning to use the E wheels although I will retain them. They have low grip 15” tyres which i’m sure improve the range but don’t handle the torque output at all well especially when accelerating out of corners. Interestingly the factory ‘e’ wheels are 1” wider at the rear although the tyre size is the same all round. I’m planning to use the slightly wider 16” wheels of the recipient vehicle and will allow me to rotate the tyres - which I suspect will require much more regular replacement than on the 51kw petrol version..
Seats will be transferred as they are much more comfortable as well as heated (to reduce need for cabin heating) and also contain occupancy and proximity sensors for the airbag system that the Euro version doesn’t. Not sure if the US seatbelts and pretensioners will comply yet. The American version also has much better designed cup holders!
The Gauge cluster should transfer ok into the RHD dash although there is substantial wiring modifications required with 3 digital CAN Bus networks running as well as flipping over the central locking, gauge cluster, column stalk, electric power steering, wipers, mirrors and airbag system (driver, passenger and knee airbags) as well as a lot of additional equipment for the electric climate control aircon and heating, auto dimming interior mirror and alarm. The factory Satnav is very lost too as well as using satellite radio rather than DAB and missing ‘even’ station frequencies. I will see if I can use a local unit but it depends whether that will allow access to the EV specific functions such as charging timers and whether the BCM will override the functions in the local unit anyway as it does in other Fiat models.
The e has unique front and rear bumpers, side skirts, air dam and spoiler. Again I will retain these although i’m planning a more retro-look with my donor vehicle so I will see how it affects the range before I decide to fit them.
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Re: Damon’s Fiat 500e project

Post by tassie_tiger » Sat, 01 Sep 2018, 18:24

Seems most of the e version is better spec'd than the local [except for the wheels perhaps]! Such an awesome project, really enjoying this.

I suppose aesthetically, a black local version would have enabled better colour co-ordination for swap overs but as you said, you want a retro look, whereas others if they took on such a grand project, may have wanted it to look just like the e. Either way, thanks for your reply and updates.

You have probably already seen this in regard to the navigation:
https://en.discussions.tomtom.com/built ... av-1021967

and here two German forum users claim they were able to install Euro maps: https://translate.google.com/translate? ... edit-text=
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Re: Damon’s Fiat 500e project

Post by Damon500 » Sat, 01 Sep 2018, 20:21

What makes it confusing is there are two very different Tom Tom navigation systems in the 500, the early model (pre 2016) which has a very basic Blaupunkt radio/CD with no audio streaming and Microsoft Bluetooth system (Blue and Me) plus a free standing plug in Tom Tom which communicates via Bluetooth and can be updated like any other TomTom via USB.
There are variations in timing of updates between the US and Euro models- later euro model (Series 4) with Uconnect from 2015 has an integrated touch screen with TomTom built that can’t be updated, US version went to Uconnect in 2016 and as far as I am aware even the local unit doesn’t currently have map updates available for the Australian maps. The Alfa Giulietta and Fiat Fremont Uconnect run Garmin integrated maps which have recently had Australian updated maps released however so maybe it will happen in due course.
One possible solution is the current 2018 Australian Series 6 Fiat 500 has been updated to a very nice 7” screen and apple CarPlay/Android Auto instead of the earlier 5” with embedded Nav which would be interesting to see if it could be retrofitted when a reasonably priced used unit becomes available to test.
The other interesting question is whether the DAB function will still work anyway as my experience with swapping a 500X uconnect unit is that the functions are driven out of the BCM and even if the head unit is capable it will only work if that ‘option’ is programmed into the BCM from factory which in my case is Sirius satellite radio rather than DAB.
If all else fails I could always use an aftermarket head unit with a fascia adaptor, Can Bus interface and data adaptor but it would be nice to use a factory unit if possible. In any case that is a relatively simple plug and play so I can worry about that later on!
The other ‘for later’ project is the on board Uconnect app and vehicle telematics system which enables you to remotely turn on and unlock the car as well as turning on heat or aircon when still on charge as well as monitoring SOC. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0b48y7RM_UQ This app is only supported in North America for a 3 year period and is non renewable so there are many 500e owners looking for an alternative CAN modem to replicate these features. Mine is still within the 3 year subscription period so I might try a local SIM in the VTM modem when the dashboard is apart but overseas experience tends to suggest that won’t work. A company called OVMS https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=CSh-Mdf-Q ... 4u&index=2 do make a generic CAN enabled telematics module but haven’t developed software for the 500e application yet- I have offered to help them with development of software in due course but will need my car functional first!

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Re: Damon’s Fiat 500e project

Post by Damon500 » Sun, 02 Sep 2018, 20:51

Latest progress today, rear suspension has now been removed to gain access to the battery pack which I have also removed. Next task is to strip the ICE car also and determine how extensive the modifications to the floorpan and boot floor are.
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Re: Damon’s Fiat 500e project

Post by jonescg » Mon, 03 Sep 2018, 10:38

Liquid cooled battery pack by the looks of it?
Very interesting project - following closely :)
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Re: Damon’s Fiat 500e project

Post by Damon500 » Mon, 03 Sep 2018, 17:19

Yes Chris the power train was developed by Bosch and has full thermal management of the packs, two separate radiator systems for cooling motor/inverter and heating or cooling the batteries with heat exchanger out of the AC system.

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Re: Damon’s Fiat 500e project

Post by Damon500 » Mon, 03 Sep 2018, 20:37

Tonight’s project was to refit the suspension to the EV to make it mobile and get it off the hoist. A seemingly simple task was impossible due to the inability of compressing the springs to refit the rear axle without the weight of the battery pack! Thankfully I had a spare set of 1960 Fiat 500 wagon rear springs on the shelf which dropped straight in and allowed the suspension to be reassembled at almost exactly the correct height! Then I removed the exhaust and fuel tank from the recipient vehicle so the VASS engineer and I can evaluate the differences between the floor pans and boot floor in the ICE and EV versions- fortunately the tank dropped out with rear suspension in situ so saved removal for now.
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Re: Damon’s Fiat 500e project

Post by Damon500 » Thu, 06 Sep 2018, 15:15

Busy day today removing the engine and transmission from the ICE vehicle and dashboard assembly so we can take a closer look at the differences in the body structure. Will be interested to see if the heater box requires modification once the EV dash comes out.
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Re: Damon’s Fiat 500e project

Post by T1 Terry » Thu, 06 Sep 2018, 15:25

You certainly have plenty of time free to do all this work. Most of us have to juggle the projects and working to keep the $$ rolling in but great to see just how fast you are moving with this project.
Does the ICE model and the EV model have power assisted steering?

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Re: Damon’s Fiat 500e project

Post by Damon500 » Thu, 06 Sep 2018, 15:47

Thanks Terry- not really, i’m putting In about 2-3 hours each night after work although I was fortunate enough to get a 6 hour block today on my RDO. My VASS engineer is retiring at the end of this year so I have to keep moving. The disassembly is the (relatively) easy part, although it is important to make sure that everything is organised so I know what parts to use from which model when reassembling.

Thankfully this isn’t my first engine swap or RHD conversion on an Italian car although it is certainly the most technical I have attempted. Progress will slow significantly once I have to start cutting floors out of the vehicles and then the wiring modifications to the dash loom will be extensive.

Both the EV and ICE versions have column mounted electric power steering (not dual pinion) but there are 3 different ratios on the RHD racks. One of the reasons I picked the specific RHD model I did was to get one that has the same lock to lock specifications as the EV.

I need to use the EV EPS unit as it is compatible to the digital network and the ESP system which will have very different calibrations due to the vastly different weight distribution, power delivery and braking systems.

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Re: Damon’s Fiat 500e project

Post by T1 Terry » Fri, 07 Sep 2018, 12:18

Certainly a lot of research has gone into matching up the 2 units for the swap over. Obviously you are in the know as to just what is needed in each model so it isn't just a matter of buying one of each and getting to work with the spanners. Not really a job for the novice DIY even if they do have a mechanical background. I will be watching with interest to see the next steps through to the end product ready for the road.
Are you looking at this as a possible future business proposition?

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Re: Damon’s Fiat 500e project

Post by brunohill » Fri, 07 Sep 2018, 21:38

I remember now, why I left my Brumby on the road as is, the Suzuki became my paddock basher, and I wimped out and just bought a LEAF. When I used to repair and rebuild things, (before throw away electronics) most of the bits would fit in a shoe box. Even then, if I waited more than 6 weeks for parts, I had trouble remembering , which part went where?
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Re: Damon’s Fiat 500e project

Post by Damon500 » Fri, 07 Sep 2018, 21:41

Yes, there has been a lot of research put into the project- it is complicated more by the fact that the US and Euro versions run completely separate online technical manuals and parts catalogues both with very different formats- part numbers are also completely different so can’t be cross referenced.
I wanted the later model 500e, preferably with low km and young battery age. I started off with a local 2014 model ICE ‘recipient’ car but decided it was better to buy a later (2017) car than buy the additional expensive parts I would need to convert the earlier series.
You are the second person to ask me about the business proposition today. I did initially and briefly consider it when evaluating importing a car and converting it under SEVS.
I abandoned the idea quite early as it defeated the purpose of bringing one in to learn about the tech in a hands on way if I had to engage a RAW to do the conversion with potential quality risks and also prohibitive costs involved!
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Re: Damon’s Fiat 500e project

Post by Damon500 » Fri, 07 Sep 2018, 21:49

brunohill wrote:
Fri, 07 Sep 2018, 21:38
I remember now, why I left my Brumby on the road as is, the Suzuki became my paddock basher, and I wimped out and just bought a LEAF. When I used to repair and rebuild things, (before throw away electronics) most of the bits would fit in a shoe box. Even then, if I waited more than 6 weeks for parts, I had trouble remembering , which part went where?
Luckily I have done this a few times before including reassembling a couple of cars that had been dismantled before I got them... Reassembly is much quicker and better if you take the time to store everything removed in a logical way, as well as taking lots of photos to refer to later if need be! Obviously in this case I also am separating out what parts from the RHD and LHD models i’m planning to re use.

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Re: Damon’s Fiat 500e project

Post by Damon500 » Thu, 13 Sep 2018, 17:18

More disassembly today- this time the EV drivetrain so both are now rolling shells and first engineering inspection has been carried out. Lots to do but at least we have an idea of next steps!
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Re: Damon’s Fiat 500e project

Post by Damon500 » Thu, 20 Sep 2018, 20:21

Last day of progress before the school holidays kick in! Rear wiring and curtain airbags now removed from the 500e along with heater box and dash support frame. Now the tedious task begins of drilling out the individual spot welds on the floor sections to carefully remove them so they can be welded back into the RHD vehicle... eventually!
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Re: Damon’s Fiat 500e project

Post by jonescg » Thu, 20 Sep 2018, 20:29

This is not a small job :o
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Re: Damon’s Fiat 500e project

Post by T1 Terry » Fri, 21 Sep 2018, 13:43

What a mammoth project, as Chris said. I had visions of it being an unbolt and bolt back in type conversion, but changing floor pans as well :shock: So, basically at some stage both vehicles will in pieces including the body shell, then only one gets rebuilt?

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Re: Damon’s Fiat 500e project

Post by Damon500 » Sat, 22 Sep 2018, 05:41

Hi Terry and Chris,
Yes, it’s no small task despite their size! I always knew it wasn’t going to be a bolt in conversion although I figured that it would eventually be possible if enough was swapped over.. the frustrating part is that physically converting the LHD shell would have been much more simple- one extra hole for the steering column and bolt in the rest.

Unfortunately under current legislation it wouldn’t have been legally possible to import it for road use as the model is still in production and a variant of it is currently on sale in Australia. Even if I did manage to get past this hurdle it would still need to be converted by a RAW with associated labour costs as well as unknown quality of workmanship. The other consideration is that it was more cost effective to buy a whole local car than the many individual parts required for the conversion.

Both vehicles are now almost completely stripped to rolling shells as pictured in previous post. All the smaller parts are boxed up and organised so I know what to use on reassembly.
The rear centre section of the floor pan and associated reinforcements need to be unpicked and welded into the local body which starts with the tedious process of drilling out several hundred spot welds across both cars. Also the section of boot floor from rear seat to the rear beaver panel needs to be swapped over although I can’t transplant the complete floor as the VIN number is stamped in there just to add to the fun....

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Re: Damon’s Fiat 500e project

Post by Damon500 » Mon, 24 Sep 2018, 21:10

The tedious part of the project continues- another 110 spot welds drilled out and not even half way there yet!
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Re: Damon’s Fiat 500e project

Post by T1 Terry » Tue, 25 Sep 2018, 12:24

Then the task of finding which spot welds weren't quite drilled far enough. did a similar job on a Fiat that wanted a 5 sp box fitted to replace the 4 sp. 2 spot-weld cutters later and it still didn't want to come out of the donor car and I still had to get the old one out of the vehicle I had to upgrade. Swore I'd never take on another job like that, even though I was being paid to do it, never wanted to do another :lol:

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Re: Damon’s Fiat 500e project

Post by Damon500 » Tue, 25 Sep 2018, 22:02

Yes, funny how amnesia seems to kick in when a new project comes along. Tonight I thought I was ready to lift off the top section then discovered there are two large reinforcing sections and a crossmember that I need to remove, another 80 welds on top and who knows how many underneath through three layers...
Last time I did a Fiat floor replacement I also ended up with more than I bargained for- discovering the car was 30mm shorter in wheelbase on the passenger side and ended up replacing the front bulkhead and inner wheelarch as well...
Thankfully the end result was worth it and we have had lots of fun with it over the last 5 years it has been back on the road!
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