By Michael Goetz
GM is not too sure about its long-term commitment to Opel, but it was all lovey dovey for the couple when the Opel version of the Chevrolet Volt took centre stage at Geneva.
When it hits European streets in 2011, the Opel Ampera will be the continent’s first extended-range electric vehicle. (In the U.K. the Ampera will sell as a right-drive model under the Vauxhall brand.)
As with the Volt, the Ampera’s wheels are turned electrically at all time and all speeds. For journeys up to 60 km it runs on electricity stored in the 16-kWh, lithium-ion battery pack. The T-shaped pack will feature more than 220 lithium-ion cells.
When battery energy is depleted, a small engine kicks in to drive a generator, which gets more juice going to the battery; to theoretically extend range to 500 km. Ampera can be plugged into any household outlet for charging.
The main differences between Ampera and Volt are styling, and even then, mostly to front and rear fascia. Ampera definitely has the more aggressive looks, furthered by the black interior (Volt’s interior is white).
Ampera may find more initial success than Volt, because, in Germany for example, about 80 percent of drivers travel less than 50 km each day.