Mike Stevens | Oct 28, 2008

Italian revivalist Fiat and its gang of stone-mad but brilliant Brazilian designers have come up with the funkiest little critter the enviro-crowd are surely to have ever seen, and, come Thursday, it’s to be revealed at the São Paulo Motor Show.

With the mission motto of “Environment and Fun”, Fiat’s design and engineering team pulled out a car – if we can call it a car – that looks like that and plenty more.

Powered entirely by electricity, the Bugster is ready for charging right there in your home garage – or your vivarium.

You might be thinking "sure, it looks like it’d kill a few dunes, but it’s still just an electric car". But you’d be wrong. Because this is the most capable recreational electic car… in the world.

You see, the Bugster’s mid-engined. After all, an engine’s position in a sports car has nothing to do with whether it chews oil or Duracells. No, it’s all about weight. And just like a regular petrol mill, a battery engine – 93 Lithium-Ion batteries, to be precise – has a bit of heft to it. Sticking it in the middle (a design consideration not usually on the top of any hybrid/electric car designer’s list) dramatically improves weight distribution.

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Next thing you know, you’ve got yourself an all-electric car with the handling and roadholding of a Lotus. Well, maybe.

Loaded with 59kW (chuck a few more batteries in, eh, Fiat?) and a promising 220Nm of torque, the Bugster’s electric engine is mated to the same Dualogic sequential manual gearbox as found in the Fiat Punto.

Furthering its 'Friend of the Environment' credentials are all the little do-dads and thingamajigs you'd expect in an enviro-car. Among them a tool kit made from recycled plastics reinforced with natural sisal fibres (it’s okay, I had to look that up as well), seats formed from foam with 30 percent recycled soya bean oil. Ignoring the environment for a moment, another neat trick is this: the clay used to sculpt the body panels was modified using technology to make it more suitable for car body design. Not too shabby at all.

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The Bugster, while cool enough in its own right, isn’t Fiat’s first foray into clever environmental cars. In the Latin American market, you can pick up a Fiat Siena Tetrafuel – a car which uses four different types of fuel; pure ethanol, a petrol/ethanol blend, pure petrol, or compressed natural gas. Not only will it run on any of those four quite happily, it will also switch automatically to whichever is best suited to the driver’s demands.

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Not bad Fiat. This latest creation – the Bugster – looks like it just crawled off the set of Starship Troopers after a hard day wiping out human fighters.

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