General Motors has already teased an image of the second-generation Chevy Volt, which is set to make its debut at the Detroit motor show next January. But Europe won’t be getting the second-generation version of GM’s extended-range electric car.
I’ll be sorry to see it go. I ran a Volt on Autocar’s long-term fleet for a year and became a huge fan.
I loved the smooth and torquey electric drive, the single-speed transmission, the superb seats and driving position, the huge load space when the rear seats were folded and the car’s excellent motorway performance and arrow-straight handling.
I could also live with the occasionally intrusive engine when it kicked in to power the generator when the car was static, but it was also considerably smoother and more relaxing to drive than many self-proclaimed ‘executive’ models.
GM Europe hasn’t totally given up on electric power, however. When GME boss Karl-Thomas Neumann recently confirmed the demise of the Ampera, he said: “We see e-mobility as an important part of the mobility of tomorrow and we will continue to drive down costs and affordability.
"After the eventual run-out of the current-generation Ampera, we’ll introduce a successor product in the electric vehicle segment.”
Decoded, that probably means GM will launch a much cheaper, battery-only electric car, possibly related to a new generation of the Chevrolet Spark electric supermini.
Unlike the Ampera, however, which was a serious attempt at an electric car that could be relied on as an only car, the next GME electric car is likely to be much closer to the Renault Zoe. In other words, a second, urban car to use for shorter journeys.
As much as you can argue that the Ampera was clever and desirable (it was the 2012 European Car of the Year, after all), there is no arguing with the sales figures.
In 2012, its first full year on sale, 5300 examples found homes across Europe. Last year, however, that dropped below 3200 units, while this year’s sales are on schedule to fall well short of the 1000 mark.
The early adopters have adopted, the business buyers have bought in and demand has slowed to a sub-100-unit-per-month crawl.
It’s difficult to know why the Ampera died so quickly in Europe, although the price was clearly a big component. In the UK, the car currently costs from £27,600.
With the government’s £5000 plug-in car grant (effectively, it means the Treasury is not charging VAT), the price drops to £22,600 in base form.
That’s the same as a new Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDI SE with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
However, Vauxhall could argue that driving an Ampera in town in electric mode was a truly green way to travel, because the car was emitting nothing in the way of tailpipe pollutants.
Sadly, though, the green movement and EU governments decided to frame the hopelessly over-simplified environmental argument almost entirely in terms of CO2.