General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet Volt may not be making waves in the United States, but the plug-in hybrid model is doing better in Europe under the Opel brand. According to the Detroit News, GM has already received around 7,000 orders for the Opel Ampera, raising expectations at the US carmaker that it could sell as many as 10,000 units of Europe’s Volt by the end of 2012.
Seen as the main reason for Ampera’s growing popularity in Europe is that the gasoline price in the continent is nearly twice more expensive than in the US, thus attracting more fleet and retail customers who value fuel efficiency.
Fleet or commercial customers currently account for around 60 percent of Ampera sales. The Ampera was recently awarded as the 2012 European Car of the Year, becoming the first car developed in the US to win the distinction. GM rolled out the Ampera in Europe – and released the Volt in selected countries – in February, and has since received much support from the fuel-concerned customers.
GM is set to roll out the Vauxhall Ampera in the United Kingdom by May. Despite Ampera’s success, some analysts are still having second thoughts about the brand’s sales sustainability in Europe where consumers are more reliant on diesel engines for fuel efficiency.
Some analyst are more concerned about Ampera’s price, tagged at EUR41,900, which is almost as expensive as a luxury car, especially that some European countries do not offer tax credits for environment-friendly vehicles.
What makes the Opel Ampera groundbreaking is not only because it is an electrically driven and emission-free vehicle. Rather, it is also the first such vehicle developed to driven on a daily basis in Europe. Being able to offer comfort to four passengers, this five-door model is also able to offer excellent space in the trunk to fit in the passenger’s luggage.
Through the electric propulsion system known as the Voltec, the Opel Ampera is able to deliver excellent refinement levels and a more energetic acceleration. It even has an extended range of at least 500 kilometers. The Opel Ampera is driven by electricity and this power is produced by the highly advanced lithium-ion 16 kWh battery.
Through this battery, the model can go for a maximum of 60 km. Clearly when using the battery, the vehicle is guaranteed to have zero CO2 emissions. Should a situation arise when the energy in the battery is depleted, the system immediately shifts to the E85-fueled gas-powered engine.
This engine ensures that the electric drive unit gets that needed power and at the same time makes sure that the battery’s charge is maintained. Under this operation, the range can be extended to as far as 500 km until such time that the owner can recharge the on-board charge system using a standard 230-volt outlet in the house. This gives the driver not only confidence but also peace of mind.
Compared to standard battery-electric vehicles, the new Opel Ampera is able to remove any of the so-called “range anxiety.” Drivers are assured that they will never experience being stranded due to having a depleted battery.
Commenting on this model, Chief Engineer and Global Vehicle Line Executive Frank Weber revealed that electric driving should not only be about ecology but should also be a fun experience. He shared that by being able to deliver silent and immediate torque amounting to 370 Nm, it gives a “flying” feel.