I wasn’t expecting to be impressed with the new Opel Ampera (the Chevy Volt’s European cousin). In fact, I was convinced I would find something dull, unimaginative and lacking in technical innovation.
But instead, I believe that I’ve actually found the only serious contender to replace the Audi A3 TDI that’s sitting on my driveway right now.
This week GM invited Gas 2.0 to witness the unveiling of the Opel Ampera, to go on sale in Europe in 2011.
The Ampera not only looks great but features genuinely innovative technology, which according to GM vice Chairman Bob Lutz will ‘leapfrog the competition’. With a 16 kWh advanced lithium ion battery pack the Ampera has a battery range of 60km – not far, but far enough to satisfy the average daily requirement of 80% of German drivers – after which the gasoline powered engine begins to generate electricity enabling a total range of 500km.
GM’s Frank Weber, engineering lead on the Voltec drive train which underpins the Volt and the Ampera goes to some length to explain how this approach differs from the competition. Instead of driving the wheels directly with an option for electrical assistance (as is the case in the majority of today’s hybrids), the Voltec engine generates electricity only, allowing it to operate in the most efficient part of the fuel map while the power transmission is entirely electric. The result is an estimated running cost only 1/5th that of similarly sized conventional cars.
However, what’s most impressive is the passion and enthusiasm demonstrated by the Opel team for this product. In the Ampera they have created a stunning yet practical car which ticks every box on my A3 replacement list.
In short, it is one of the few cars that I saw at this year’s Geneva Motor Show which inspires a genuine feeling of desire – of the kind that makes one forget the poor economic arguments for cars in a country well served by public transport, and makes you just want to write the cheque and own it.
The Ampera is on my shopping list..
- 220 lithium-ion cells
- Nearly silent electric drive unit delivers 370 Nm of instant torque
- Equivalent of 150 horsepower,
- Zero to 100 km/h acceleration in around nine seconds, and a top speed of 161 km/h.
Images © GM Corp, with permission.