Fiat's all-electric 500e city car isn't sold in Australia, which is a pity. It's only sold in California, but it's actually pretty popular over there — with over 6000 sold in the last couple of years. Unfortunately, the lion's share of those Fiat 500es will have to visit the dealer, to fix a software bug affecting the car's battery. Whoops.
This issue highlights one of the potential stumbling blocks of electric cars; unlike petrol- and diesel-powered dinosaurs, electric cars have an extra layer of software controlling their high voltage electrical systems and all-electric drivetrains. That's another layer of complexity that means more lines of code and more things to potentially go wrong.
Transport Evolved reports the niggle is a "software issue" that exists in the interface between the 500e's electric vehicle control unit and battery pack control modules. Specifically, the problem affects the car's limp home mode — a state that the 500e goes into if its battery charge falls below a critical minimum level, ensuring there's enough juice for the driver to get home safely without power running out completely.
Ironically, though, the 500's limp mode software has a bug in it, not reporting itself to the control module and triggering an error that causes the car to shut down — and not limp home. The bug affects 5,600 cars built and delivered between March 2012 and November last year, and means drivers will have to visit their Fiat dealer to get a software update delivered to the car. If only the 500e had always-on internet and software updates over the air, a la Tesla Model S.