Opel Ampera, the long-awaited plug-in hybrid vehicle motivated by GM’s Voltec technology currently employed in the Chevy Volt PHEV, will be officially unveiled at the 2009 international motor show in Geneva.
In its press release, GM effectively confirmed that its first European PHEV will feature the Voltec propulsion technology with a built-in 16 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that lets the compact four-seater travel around 60 kilometers (37 miles) on electric power alone.
For longer distances, the car’s on-board lithium-ion batteries may be recharged on the go with electricity generated by a small-displacement internal combustion engine. Since the vehicle is not especially large and given that a great deal of its sub-floor space is occupied by the battery pack with its “more than 220” cells, the fuel tank here is almost an afterthought that, as a result, limits the vehicle overall range to just 500 kilometers that, on a normal trip, will force you to make a stop to refuel every six hours of driving or so. Luckily, you will only have to put some gas in the tank and it will only take minutes while allowing you to stretch your legs and get some coffee and may be a sandwich.
Still, given that this is mostly a city car and taking into account the fact that an average European driver travels less than 50km on a normal day between a house in suburbs and an office in the downtown, there is a very good chance that a great deal of Ampera’s future owners -especially those who have a bigger car in the family (a ‘primary’ vehicle that may soon find itself a ‘secondary’ one that will only live garage or parking lot for a family trip from Berlin to Porto, Portugalia or Izola, Slovenia)- may find themselves in the situation where they will only fire up the internal combustion a couple of times per month just to make sure that the gas-burner hasn’t been stolen or whatnot.
According to the released specs, the batteries will usually be recharged by a standard 230v power outlet. A drawback here is that, using such a meager source of power, the vehicle will possibly take a whole night to replenish the juice in the battery. On the other hand, although there are still not many ‘big’ charging stations in Europe, many parking lots (especially in the Northern Europe where car owners use small heating fans to warm up the interior) are coming with standard power outlets, so, even you don’t happen to own a house with a private garage where a proper charging station may be installed, you still have a chance to recharge the vehicle’s battery.
It is expected that first lot of Opel Ampera will be assembled in the United States to use the economy of scale to the conglomerate’s advantage, but later on the PHEV’s production will be moved to one of GM’s assembly facilities in Germany or, probably, some other parts of Europe where labor is cheaper.