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New Opel Ampera electric car

Ampera will be a hybrid star at Geneva motor show

Opel Ampera

Geneva debut for Opel hybrid

General Motors will show off its new Opel Ampera at March’s Geneva motor show – a five-door hybrid car with four seats.

However, what’s truly significant about the Ampera is that it will be the first ‘European’ car to offer electrically driven motoring that lasts for ‘several hundred kilometres’.

Like the Chevrolet Volt, another recently announced extended range electric car, the Opel Ampera uses General Motors’ new ‘Voltec’ drivetrain system (General Motors is the American parent company of both brands).

This allows for entirely electric driving for up 60km (around 37 miles), using a lithium-ion battery pack to provide the power, charged via a conventional 230v electrical outlet socket.

When this runs out, a small but otherwise conventional internal combustion engine kicks in.

‘Booster’ combustion engine

What makes the Ampera different to the petrol-electric hybrids already on sale is that rather than driving the car directly, the combustion engine is used to provide further electricity.

This continues to power the Ampera’s electric motors, theoretically resulting in far greater fuel economy and much reduced emissions.

It’s an exciting prospect. The Ampera’s American cousin, the Chevy Volt, is already slated for full production and should be available to buy in 2010.

If Opel – and Vauxhall – follows on, as we believe they will, then the future for electric vehicles is starting to look very bright.

The Opel Ampera may well also share a platform with the forthcoming next-generation Astra.

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