Karabag has been selling conversions of a few Fiat models for a while now, but a new configuration of the 500, along with a low lease price, could see them moving more out the door. The new Karabag 500e makes use of the same electric drivetrain components that German forklift maker Linde Materials Handling employs to move about its precision workhorses.

The supply arrangement allows the elektrofahrzeug-maker to offer the Italian retro-cute for €34,999 ($46,000 U.S. at today's exchange rates) or lease it for a modest €299 ($393) a month. That price, they say, makes it cheaper to operate than the gas-powered version. (You can see how they calculate that at this Google-translated page from their website).

While the price may be moderate, so is the performance. The new 500e puts out a peak 28 kW (37.55 horsepower) and allows for a top speed of just 105 km/h (65 miles per hour). Acceleration is, um, leisurely, with 50km/h (31 mph) coming 8.5 seconds after lift off. The 11-kWh lithium-polymer battery is said to offer 100 km (62 miles) of range.

Linde has also lent a drivetrain to another vehicle with much (much!) better performance. The Linde E1 electric go kart has made the Guinness Book of Records by accelerating faster to 100 km/h (62 mph) than any battery-powered cart ever before: 3.45 seconds. If only it were street legal.

Hit the jump for videos of both the Karabag 500e and the Linde E1 kart, along with a longer, bonus video from Linde detailing its history and products, that also features the electrified Fiat and the kart.

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Electric vehicles don't need to be expensive

Karabag New 500 E: zero emissions at competitive prices - with Linde drive technology

Hanover/Aschaffenburg, 22 April 2012 - It is a commonly held perception that electric vehicles are "too expensive". However, with the New 500 E, Germany's market leader in the electric vehicle sector, Karabag GmbH, has launched a vehicle whose leasing cost of € 299 per month is comparable to that of a "normal" small car. This has been made possible thanks, in part, to proven series electric drives from Linde Hydraulics.

251 registrations per year may be a drop in the ocean in the automotive market as a whole, but in the emerging market of electric vehicles, it was enough to secure the number one slot in terms of registrations during 2010 for Hamburg-based Karabag GmbH and they kept this pool position in 2011. As Germany's largest supplier of FIAT commercial vehicles, Karabag GmbH has been building and distributing electric vehicles since 2008. The company is now unveiling a new model that costs not more than a comparable vehicle with a combustion engine.

The Karabag New 500 E is based on a Fiat 500 and uses economical and highly efficient electric drives with a comparatively inexpensive lithium-polymer battery. Karabag was supported in the design and optimisation of these drives by Linde Material Handling GmbH, whose Linde Hydraulics business area has built around 3.5 million electric drives over the past 40 years for mobile work machines such as forklift trucks and electric tow tractors.

When Linde engineers began their collaboration with Karabag, the basic concept already in place left room for optimisation. The drive specialists replaced the original plan for a nominal 30 kW cooled drive with a far lighter, uncooled 28-kW motor and optimised the functions of the electronic control unit. As a result, the Karabag New 500 E comfortably outperforms the older, supposedly more powerful, version.

In addition to the drive unit for this project, Linde Hydraulics is supplying a package consisting of the motor, converter, fan and control unit. The LINC 1 control unit, which has a successful track record in forklift trucks, communicates with the on-board computer, the battery management system (BMS), a gateway and the instrument panel display.

The result of this joint development project is a vehicle with a top performance of 28 kW that can reach speeds of up to 105 km/h and accelerate from 0 to 50 km/h in 8.5 seconds. Furthermore, its cruising range of 100 km makes it perfectly suited to meet urban mobility needs.

Just as impressive as these statistics is the cost comparison with a FIAT 500 with a combustion engine. Karabag has calculated that a FIAT series model incurs total costs of €412 per month, while the Karabag New 500 E will cost only €370.40, based on the monthly leasing fee of €299 with no special payment and with a four-year guarantee. As a result, Karabag has achieved its development goal far sooner than many experts had expected.

The expertise of Linde Hydraulics and Linde's inexpensive, tried-and-tested electric drives have been instrumental in this success.

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