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Chevy Volt Twin, Ampera, Going into Hertz Fleet

Getting charged up by the Olympics

by on May.24, 2012

The Ampera previewed at the Geneva Motor Show.

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.

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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.


Chevrolet Volt Named European Car of the Year

Jurors get charged up about plug-in hybrid.

by on Mar.06, 2012

The Opel Ampera made its debut in Geneva three years ago but finally reached market just last month.

It’s been a tough year for the Chevrolet Volt, General Motors’ once-celebrated plug-in hybrid.  But perhaps it’s about to see its fortunes turn as a jury of Continental motoring journalists declare Volt and its Opel Ampera sibling the European Car of the year.

That victory comes 14 months after the Volt took North American Car of the Year honors – but, oh, how much has happened in-between.  Just last week, GM announced it will shut down production of Volt and Ampera for five weeks due to excess inventory, a problem exacerbated by reports that several Volt battery packs caught fire after U.S. crash tests.

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But while that – and a controversial hearing by a U.S. House subcommittee — might have briefly short-circuited Volt sales, it didn’t seem to unplug enthusiasm among European journalists.  The 59 members of the European Car of the Year jury awarded Volt 330 points, nearly 20% more than its nearest competitor, the Volkswagen Up!, with 281 points  Ford’s newly-updated Focus came in third, with 256 points.


Opinion: Don’t Be Afraid to Drive Your Volt

GM’s groundbreaking E-REV is no less safe than any other car on the road.

by on Jan.27, 2012

GM wants to salvage the image of the Chevy Volt.

Let’s cut to the chase: The Chevy Volt is as safe as any other vehicle on the road. And if something in the vehicle is going to cause a fire, it’s more likely to be its gasoline engine and associated plumbing than the groundbreaking car’s lithium-ion battery.

Still, General Motors finds itself having to defend the world’s first extended-range electric vehicle.

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The controversy stems from a crash test of the Volt conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last June. Two weeks after the test, a fire started when the battery’s coolant leaked onto a circuit board. The coolant was able to reach the circuit board on top of the battery when the agency did what it calls a rotisserie test, which simulates what might happen in a rollover crash.


GM Delaying Volt’s 2nd Shift – But Maker Claims Sales Still on Target

“We’re on target,” but the definition may be shifting.

by on Oct.07, 2011

Chevy will have to triple sales in the final quarter to meet sales targets for the Volt.

General Motors will delay until sometime during the second half of 2012 its plan to add a second shift at the Detroit plant producing its much-ballyhooed Chevrolet Volt.

The maker insists that even on a single shift it can meet the sales goals it has set for the plug-in hybrid for 2011 and the even more ambitious numbers it has targeted for next year.  But with retail sales still running slow, it appears GM may be leaving a bit of wiggle room in those figures as it races to triple sales of the Volt during the final three months of the year.

The Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant, known locally as Poletown, went down for an extensive changeover during the summer.  The factory, which produces vehicles for several GM brands, as well as the Volt, was to add a second shift this autumn and continue ramping up production of all those various models.

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But most of the attention has focused on the Volt.  The maker has said the Poletown plant would turn out 16,000 battery cars this year, including some sold abroad as the Opel Ampera.  The total also was to include at least one demonstrator vehicle for each of the 2,600 Chevy dealers in the U.S.  But the goal was to complete retail sales of 10,000 Volts in the States by year-end.


Toyota Formally Launches First Plug-In

Bringing range of hybrids to Europe.

by on Sep.14, 2011

The new Toyota Prius Plug-in on display at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

Underscoring the small but fast-growing presence of hybrids in Europe, Toyota brought its Prius Plug-in to Europe for its official world debut this week.

The plug-in will become part of an expanding “family” of hybrids sharing the Prius name, Didier Leroy, President of Toyota of Europe, told an audience at the Frankfurt Motor Show.  Set to reach the U.S. market, as well, in the coming months, the Prius Plug-in will have a larger battery pack than the conventional Toyota hybrid to permit it to drive longer distances in pure electric vehicle mode.

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Range will still be a modest 14.5 miles in battery mode – and will restrict the vehicle to speeds of around 60 mph.  That’s in sharp contrast to the Chevrolet Volt “extended-range electric vehicle” and its European sibling, the Opel Ampera, which get about 35 miles on a charge and can be used in electric mode at speeds up to around 90 mph.

Toyota, however, plans to sharply undercut the price of the two Detroit offerings.  Though the maker won’t reveal figures until closer to launch industry analysts expect something around or under $30,000 in the States – minus the federal $7,500 tax credit.  That could mean a buyer would get a plug-in from Toyota for about $10,000 less than a Volt.


First Look: Opel’s 2-Seat Battery Car

Targeting "green" teens.

by on Sep.08, 2011

Is Opel thinking about building this battery-powered 2-seater? It says it just might.

Opel aims to appeal to a new generation of eco-friendly buyers with the radical 2-seat battery car it plans to introduce at the Frankfurt Motor Show next week.

With a body looking something like an enclosed motorcycle – albeit with four wheels – the maker suggests the unusual concept has “production potential” and would “create a new class of lightweight, zero-emissions electric vehicles in the UK and Europe.”

Who might be interested?  An Opel release suggests it would target “younger drivers and those on a very tight budget.”

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Opel isn’t offering up many details yet – not even the name of the new show car – but it suggests it is “inspired” by the new Opel Ampera plug-in electric vehicle which recently debuted in Europe.  The sister to America’s Chevrolet Volt just garnered honors as the car of the year choice of influential British magazine What Car.


Top Chevy Volt Engineer Bolts for BMW

More turmoil at GM’s troubled opel subsidiary.

by on Apr.12, 2011

Former GM engineer Frank Weber helped guide development of both the Chevy Volt and its near-twin, the Opel Ampera, shown here.

Frank Weber, the talented engineer who guided the early development of the Chevrolet Volt, has elected to leave Opel and General Motors for a job with BMW.

Weber has been Opel’s product planning chief since the autumn of 2009 but apparently left with little warning — and Opel was none too pleased as it issued a terse statement saying he had departed to pursue other opportunities – the language often used when someone is sacked or leaves in a huff.

Weber, who helped put an engagingly fresh face on the Volt project at a critical time,  has apparently signed on for an unspecified position with BMW, which is also in the midst of launching its own electric vehicle program.

(For more on BMW’s new sustainable mobility program, Click Here.)

Weber had worked for GM for 10 years and was put in charge of struggling Opel’s product development, following what was generally agreed to have been a star-turn heading up the Volt product team.


Plans for Buick “Volt” Not Yet Locked in Stone

GM sources deny a Buick version of Opel Ampera is on tap.

by on Mar.31, 2011

Some reports say Buick will get a version of the Opel Ampera plug-in, but sources say the brand will likely have to wait - then get a more distinctive variant of the Volt-based plug-in.

Not long ago written off for dead, the Buick brand is staging a remarkable recovery and, so far this year has outsold Lexus and come close to tackling BMW.  No wonder General Motors is rushing to expand Buick’s relatively modest line-up.

Could a plug-in hybrid be in the works?  That’s been the subject of some intense speculation in automotive and media circles, with some reports suggesting that the brand will soon get a version of the Chevrolet Volt – or more precisely, a version of the Opel Ampera, itself the restyled version of the Volt being launched by GM’s European subsidiary.

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Several well-placed sources confirmed that is one of the possibilities under consideration – and according to one of those, there are “a slew of opportunities we’re looking at.”  But don’t expect to see a Buick plug-in rolling into showrooms anytime soon, if the project even happens, those sources stress.  There are a variety of factors that will influence where GM next rolls out a product using the so-called Voltec drivetrain shared by Volt and Ampera.


GM Sets Price For Volt’s Euro Twin, Opel Ampera

Europeans to pay stiff premium compared to U.S.

by on Nov.15, 2010

The Opel Ampera makes its debut at the Geneva Motor Show in 2009.

Opel has officially begun taking reservations for the 2011 Ampera,  Europe’s first extended-range electric vehicle. The near-twin of the Chevrolet Volt, which is just going on sale in the U.S., the Opel E-REV will go for about $59,000, depending on the market.

Opel is billing the Ampera as the best solution for reducing automobile emissions and dependency on petroleum.  As in the U.S., the GM subsidiary is betting that by offering the ability to keep driving after its batteries are discharged will make Ampera remarkably easy to accept, Opel officials said, when compared to a conventional electric vehicle.

As with Volt, the five-door, four-seat Opel offering relies on a 16 kWh lithium-ion battery pack to give it approximately 65 kilometers (about 40 miles) of EV-mode range.  Beyond that, its small 4-cylinder gasoline engine kicks in.


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The manufacturer’s suggested retail price throughout Europe for the base Opel Ampera  starts at 42,900 euros, including national VAT, or Value-Added Tax. That’s approximately the U.S. price, in dollars, but because of the current exchange rate, Americans would pay $59,000 for the Ampera.

But because local taxes and trim levels will differ from market to market, prices in each country may differ. And, as in the United States, there are national subsidies buyers may take advantage of. In Germany, for example, where the 19% VAT is forgiven on battery cars, the Ampera net price is 36,050 euros.


Vivaro Suggests Future Applications of Extended-Range Electric Vehicle Technology

Concept is a European delivery van based on technology in Chevrolet Volt.

by on Oct.07, 2010

The Opel Vivaro concept suggests what might be next for General Motors' extended-range electric vehicle technology.

While the Chevrolet Volt, due to hit dealerships in limited numbers later this year, is critical to General Motors’ resurgence, expanding use of the technology to other types of vehicles will be important for the automaker’s future.

But concepts using what GM calls Voltec technology, have been lacking, partly because the automaker has been so focused on developing the Volt itself, partly because development money has been scarce as the automaker recovers from its 2009 bankruptcy.

There was the Cadillac Converj concept, basically a Volt dressed up in Cadillac clothing, and Opel is planning to sell a version of the Volt as the Ampera.


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Now GM Europe is showing the Vivaro e-Concept, a delivery van that would be capable of traveling about 60 miles on battery power only. The Vivaro’s battery is double the size of the 16 kWh battery in the Volt, which is projected to have an electric-only range of 40 miles.

There are no plans to introduce the Vivaro in the U.S., but it does illustrate how GM might expand its lineup of extended-range electric vehicles beyond the Volt. In theory, the Vivaro’s drivetrain could be placed in a minivan or a Chevy Traverse-style crossover or other larger vehicle.