By next year, the demand for cars in Europe will significantly weaken, according to Opel CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke. At the Automobilwoche annual conference in Berlin, Stracke said that the European automobile market will “experience a painful cooling” and that the market will significantly shrink. Automobilwoche is a sister publication to Automotive News Europe. He clarified that the European sovereign debt crisis was making the future uncertain among consumers.
Stracke told 300 auto industry executives that the automobile industry is “especially affected by this." He explained that Opel believes that electric cars will have a major role in the future of the industry but only until EVs could achieve a range of 300 km.
He asserted that electric cars aren’t prepared for the mass market. Stracke said that government subsidies will be a crucial factor in increasing EV sales. Stracke also said that internal combustion engines will still be the main propulsion systems for cars for the upcoming years so that there’s room to boost engine efficiency by 20% to 30%.
It was during the 79th Geneva Motor Show that Opel first unveiled its extended-range electric vehicle, the Ampera. This was done by Carl-Peter Forster, General Motors Europe president, who also disclosed that this model will go into production by the late 2011. With its four seats and five doors, the Ampera is clearly inspired by the company’s award-winning design language. This particular design is where German precision is combined with sculptural artistry and it then incorporates a number of styling cues from the GTC concept car and the Flextreme show cars.
Forster said that with the Opel Ampera, GM is again showing why it continues to lead in automobile electrification. With the highly innovative Voltec electric propulsion system, he added, this technology has not only allowed the company to meet the demands of environmental and energy challenges but also change the automotive industry. GME Vice President Opel Alain Visser said that the introduction of the Opel Ampera is also a good way to celebrate 110 years of innovation done by Opel with respect to the auto industry.
No matter what the speed is or what the situation may be, the wheels of the Opel Ampera are powered purely by electricity. For travels going as far as 60 km (MVEG), the Ampera utilizes the electricity stored in its lithium-ion 16-kWh battery and thus ensures no CO2 emissions. Should the energy in the battery be depleted, the engine generator supplies the electricity allowing to the range of the Ampera to be extended by as much as 500 km.
In order to recharge the battery, all that needs to be done is to plug the vehicle on a 230-volt outlet. At present, GM Europe is looking into what is needed in order to put up recharging infrastructure by the energy companies, like Spain’s Iberdrola, which will power plug-in electric cars.
Indeed, the Ampera will be the first ever electrically-powered and emission-free vehicle to be offered in Europe. While everyday driving comfort is guaranteed with a trunk that offers ample space, the inclusion of the Voltec electric propulsion system ensures lively acceleration as well as high-levels of refinement. For the U.K. market, a right-hand drive version of the Ampera will be made available through Vauxhall, the company’s sister-brand.