As might be expected when a group of Brazilians and Italians, two countries not renowned for their wall-flower tendencies, got together to produce a car under the "Environment and Fun" banner they came up with the FIAT Bugster – an all electric off-road car designed to be charged at home.
But, for a technical first, the Bugster is not so much mid-engined, as mid-batteried. The 93 Lithium-Ion batteries, being the heaviest part of the drivetrain, have been mounted in the middle of the car to provide optimum weight distribution to achieve the best level of handling and roadholding – issues that usually don't trouble the minds of people designing hybrids and electric cars.
To make the most of its 59 kW and 220 Nm of torque, the electric engine is mated to the same Dualogic sequential manual gearbox as used in the FIAT Punto, so as to provide a sporty response and yet more fun.
Beyond the engine and the bright green paint there are many more ingenious ideas – the tools in the tool kit are made from recycled plastic reinforced with natural sisal fibres; the seats are made from foam produced with 30 per cent recycled soya bean oil and body panels use clay that had been modified by nanotechnology to make it suitable for car bodywork use.
Entirely built by FIAT's Brazilian division, the Bugster makes its world debut this week (30 October 2008) at the Sao Paulo Motor Show and is the latest in FIAT's long history of environmental advanced cars. FIAT, for example, produce for the Latin American market the first car to be able to run on four different fuels, the FIAT Siena Tetrafuel, which uses pure ethanol, a petrol/ethanol blend, pure petrol or compressed natural gas.
Not only is this unique car capable of running on each of the four fuels, it automatically switches to whichever energy source is most suitable for the driving demands being placed on it.