General Motors hopes the Olympics will charge up its electric vehicle program.
While BMW is the official automobile of the quadrennial games, GM has teamed up with Hertz to give visitors coming into London for the games a chance to test out its new Vauxhall Ampera. The European version of the Chevrolet Volt will be offered for rent in the coming weeks as part of the Hertz on Demand EV car sharing fleet.
Ironically, both Hertz and GM will have to downplay the Olympic connection. Organizers of the event have come down hard on any commercial effort to get a lift off the games, which are expected to bring millions to the British capital during their two-week run. A restaurant named the Olympic, was forced to take down the “O” on its sign under strict new rules that limit who can use the name or the familiar, 5-ring logo.
But motorists will nonetheless find the Ampera waiting in the fleet starting in June, weeks before the flame is lit at the Olympic stadium.
The Vauxhall Ampera – sold elsewhere in Europe under the Opel brand — is the near-twin of the Chevrolet Volt. It’s a plug-in hybrid that delivers between 25 and 50 miles of battery-powered electric drive with no tailpipe emissions while driving. After the batteries run down, it’s able to continue driving using its 1.4-liter internal combustion engine which serves as a generator, continuing to deliver power to the Ampera’s electric motor.
Olympic visitors and other potential renters will be able to set up a ride in the Ampera at hertzondemand.co.uk.
“We are delighted to be introducing the Ampera to our growing fleet of electric vehicles,” said Michel Taride, president of Hertz International. “At Hertz, we are excited about new technology and innovations in smart, eco-friendly travel. This sleek car is perfect for our customers; not only is it fun to drive but also its range extender allows for longer trips.”
The Ampera is built in Detroit at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck facility — the same plant producing the Chevy Volt — and exported to Europe and Great Britain.
GM is one of several battery car makers hoping to perk interest in the new technology with selective rental car ties. Nissan is doing the same with its Leaf model, and Ford plans to offer its new Focus Electric through a limited number of carsharing outlets.
As for Hertz, the world’s largest rental car company plans to increase its own global EV presence by deploying vehicles in other countries in the coming months, according to Taride.
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