The Vauxhall-Opel Ampera is about to begin production trials in Europe.
The car, which is driven by a 147bhp electric motor but has a 75bhp, 1.4-litre petrol engine on board to generate power after it has used its first 35 miles of battery range, is the Astra-sized five-door saloon on which General Motors is basing most of its current green technologies.
The Ampera, which is due to be made in both left and right-hand drive versions at GM’s Hamtramck plant, near Detroit, towards the end of 2011, is running about a year behind the Chevrolet Volt, which hits the US market at the end of next year.
GM Europe is still deciding whether to make the car in Europe, for a number of reasons. Continuing uncertainty over the company’s ownership is one; the difficulty of forecasting European demand is another.
But GM insiders also cite political considerations; the car could easily be made anywhere the Astra is currently in production – including at the UK’s Ellesmere Port – but company bosses are likely to press green-conscious European governments for as much ‘assistance’ as possible before they make a decision. Vauxhall-badged Amperas will hit UK showrooms around four months behind the first left-hand drive Opels, in the first quarter of 2012.
GM offers no comment on price, except to say that there will be a premium added to similar-sized petrol and diesel saloon car, which will reflect fuel savings over the car’s lifetime but won’t be large enough to deter buyers.
The Ampera’s heart, its 180kg T-shaped lithium ion battery, is intended to last the life of the car - at least 10 years or 150,000 miles - and should not need the separate lease deals and plug-in/plug-out systems that other electric car manufacturers are planning.