March 11

2015 Fiat 500E Battery Replacement



Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert. I'm here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience as voted by their customers. And we're talking cars. How are you doing Bernie? 

Bernie: Doing very well. 

Mark: So today we're talking about a 2015 Fiat 500 E. An EV. I didn't know that Fiat made EVs back in 2015. So what was going on with this vehicle? 

Bernie: Yeah, they've been around for a while. And actually they weren't actually sold in Canada. We're in Canada for those of you international watchers of our videos and podcasts. Yeah, they'd actually never sold them in Canada, but I've seen a few of them around, so they made their way up here. 

But anyways what was going on with this vehicle. This vehicle had been bought by someone who was actually in the business of flipping EVs, buying and selling, and he picked this Fiat up at an auction. Basically the high voltage battery was weak. The vehicle wouldn't start or charge.

And he figured that it needed to be recharged like special recharge. We have equipment and we're kind of known for having special equipment that we can recharge EV and hybrid batteries. So he brought the vehicle into us with the idea that we would be removing the battery, dismantling it partially and charging the cells. But when we got into it, we found something a little different. 

Mark: So what sort of testing and diagnosis did you start with? 

Bernie: Well, we did a scan of the vehicle. There was a couple of codes and I don't have the information ready, you know, there was some battery pack codes stored. Also on the dash indicator, one moment it would read like the battery pack was half full, but there was a limited power warning. It said limited power. I mean, it had no power. The vehicle wouldn't move. But after I did a scan and did a little look at, then all of a sudden the dash reading basically the battery was zero. So there was a few electronic issues going on emanating from the battery pack. 

Mark: So what else did you do from there?

Bernie: So basically following the idea that we would, you know, the original sort of plan of recharging the battery, we went to work on removing the battery from the vehicle to open it up and access it. And found that the battery pack had actually been hit.

There's a shield and a cover under the front of the battery pack where the coolant lines and the electrical connectors go. There's a big dent in the bottom of the battery pack. So right at that moment, we go, okay, we're not charging this battery. This needs to be replaced.

Mark: So why couldn't you charge the battery? You're going to assume basically that the cells inside have been split open and that there's liquid leaking or something? What's going on? 

Bernie: Well, you know, based on the fact there's stored trouble codes, the battery pack's been hit, something's been damaged inside the battery. And so getting parts for the battery pack is not something we generally do. I mean, we might be able to over time, but right now it's a very highly specialized type of repair. I mean, a lot of battery packs, they have several computers in them. They have pumps and cooling systems and a variety of things besides just battery cells. So at that point, we figure, you know, the only economical thing to do is get a good used battery. 

Mark: So what's involved in replacing an EV battery? 

Bernie: So in this car the battery is pretty small. We'll look at pictures in a moment. I mean, it's a pretty short car. The battery pack takes up more than half the bottom of the car. Goes right from, you know, sort of under where your driver's feet would be right to the very back of the vehicle.

And to remove the battery, you have to drop the rear axle. It's a front wheel drive car. So the rear axle assembly has to be dropped out. It's not a lot of work, but you know, it's a few hours to remove the battery and put it back in. And the battery pack has a hump that goes over top of where the axle sits. So that has to be removed and the battery pack is lowered down underneath the vehicle. And the repair we did, we actually got a used battery, swapped in a new one and lifted it back in. 

Mark: Let's look at some pictures. 

Bernie: Let's do it. So there's the Fiat 500 E. It really doesn't look any different than a gasoline powered model. Unless you look at the little badge at the bottom corner in front of the wheel and it has an E there. But even the charging door looks just like a regular gas door. So they didn't do anything fancy. It sits in the same location. 

2015 Fiat 500E Battery Replacement

Mark: I don't think Fiat even makes a regular vehicle. I think they're all EVs now for the 500s. 

Bernie: Are they? Yeah, I'm not really sure. So this is one of the dash. So again, this is like powered up. Theoretically, you'd want to be driving it and it says the battery pack has half power. But this is why I figured, you know, maybe a computer was damaged or a module or something because it says the battery has half power, but there's a limited power mode warning.

2015 Fiat 500E Battery Replacement

And of course, the vehicle wouldn't go anywhere. So, dismantling the battery pack, if you were able to tinker with it and maybe get another module, it's probably got a module of some sort that's damaged, if you replaced it, it might well come back to life. 

Mark: Yeah, depending on whether the cells were split.

Bernie: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And I mean, I did some research into this battery. So this is the battery removed. The rear end of the battery, you can almost see the hump of the, please go back a bit, Mark. You can almost see, yeah, I didn't have a picture of a side view, but I think you're moving your mouse pointer around that, that's sort of the hump where the rear axle goes through. 

2015 Fiat 500E Battery Replacement

That big orange thing on the top. That is the safety plug. So that makes the battery safe, unless you take the case apart, it's still full of power, but it's a battery disconnect switch plug. This battery, if you look at the top sort of seam, there's bolts all the way around, so you can take the battery apart. And if you're interested in doing this kind of stuff there's a lot of YouTube videos. And people have actually taken these apart and the insides of them, there's a number of different battery packs are all basically joined together in various spots.

There's a couple of different size packs as well. That kind of all joined together based on how much space is available in the battery pack. 

If you look on the bottom right, you can see the dent. That is where the dent occurred. Those two sort of pipe nipples on top that's where the coolant pipes go into the battery pack. Beside that there's a black plug and that would be for the computer electronics communication through the vehicle and through the battery pack. The next orange plug goes to the charger plug. 

2015 Fiat 500E Battery Replacement

And then on the left, that's the main power connector that goes out to the inverter and the electric motor. And that had been hit and damaged as well but not to the point where it wasn't making a good connection. So that's basically the look of the battery pack. But once we saw that damage, it's like, okay, it's kind of game over for this one. 

2015 Fiat 500E Battery Replacement

Mark: So speculating they ran over something that damaged the battery? 

Bernie: Ran over something? Yep. Exactly. So it's interesting, the owner of this vehicle had bought this vehicle at an auction and was told that the battery was in good shape.

So he was able to actually get some compensation from them to do this repair, because it was very expensive. I mean, if you were the owner of the vehicle, it would probably be worth spending the money to fix it. But if you're buying it again on the premise that, Hey the battery pack is good.

All of a sudden having to be forced to spend many thousands of dollars to replace the battery pack kind of doesn't work well. So he was able to work something out, which is good because obviously if they send it back to the auction, they'd have to fix it themselves before they resold it. 

Mark: Now this is common in a lot of EVs. They're maybe lower ground clearance like this vehicle. The batteries are at the bottom. Are they pretty vulnerable to damage? 

Bernie: I think they are. We did a smart EV battery a while ago which we bought directly from Mercedes was the only thing available, the owner wanted to go with a new one. I had to sign like four or five sheets of documents before they'd even take the old battery back to verify it had not been hit. It's actually a fire risk, you know, and transportation risk. And Mercedes is very anal about the way they deal with things. It's probably smart, you know, last thing you want to do is put it. Sorry. 

Mark: They're wise that way. 

Bernie: They're wise that way. Well, you know, the last thing they want to do is put it on a truck and all of a sudden the truck catches on fire and then they get sued. And of course being a large corporation, they have deep pockets and lots of money to be taken. So they're smart that way. But anyways, you know, batteries being hit, it's an issue. And there's been a lot of news articles about various EVs that are new that, you know, the batteries have been hit and the cost to replace them as exceeds the value of the new vehicle.

There's also talk to insurance companies where the battery packs been hit. They'll just write the vehicle off because there's not really any proper repair documentation or any engineering studies of this is safe to repair. This is not. And in the case of this Fiat, of course, it wouldn't work. So this hit was you know, damaged the vehicle battery. Whereas, you know, if you got a little ding in the battery, it works, well, it's probably okay still.

Mark: So this seems to me to be a case of we're so early in that manufacturing cycle for EVs, we generally, just without thought, compare it to gasoline vehicles, which have had 100 years to build an infrastructure that EVs don't have, number one. Number two, it sort of caught these big manufacturers by surprise and they're whipping stuff together. Like this isn't a designed up from ground vehicle. This is a gas vehicle sort of had an EV thing shoved into it to make it go. So they haven't necessarily thought it through in the best way possible. Is that fair? 

Bernie: I think so. Yeah, and I think we're seeing a lot of stuff like that and like supply issues. I mean, there's not a lot of extra batteries made. You know, there was a bit of damage to that big power cable. We saw that picture with the end, that power cable, there's a bit of damage to the connector, which didn't turn out to be an issue at the end of the day. But we thought, Hey, maybe if we got a new connector. The wrecker where we got the used battery, that connector wasn't available for some reason. 

But I called Fiat and it was like a two or three months back order and over 2,000 dollars for that cable. Ridiculous, you know but you can't hack those things. I mean, they're very specially made parts .But just things like that, where two or three months back order, it's kind of crazy. But the good news for this customer is we're actually able to get a used battery for a really reasonable price.

So that was nice to see, because we don't see that for a lot of other EVs that even a used battery is an outrageous amount of money, more than they should be. 

Mark: And how are Fiat 500Es for the EV models, for reliability? 

Bernie: Well, I can honestly say this is the first one we've worked on and there isn't that many in Canada. So I don't know how many more we'll see. I'm sure, you know, a few here and there, now that we put this podcast out. We'll probably see a few more because it seems to draw business interest and we're happy to work on them. 

But you know, I think generally it should be a pretty decent vehicle. This one only had about 47,000 miles on it, which is pretty low in terms of mileage and had the battery not been hit, I'm sure it would have probably gone for quite a lot longer. 

Mark: If you're looking for service for your EV, the experts in Vancouver, BC, Canada are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them online at You can book there, they'll call you, they'll get ready for your appointment. We've also got over a thousand videos on repairs. and maintenance of all makes and models, types of cars, over 10 years worth of it. Check us out. You can also call them at (604) 327-7112 to book your appointment. You've got a book ahead. They're always busy. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Thanks for watching and listening. Thanks Bernie. 

Bernie: Thanks Mark. Thanks for watching.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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