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Opel Ampera – Click above for high-res image gallery

Whoa. Color us shocked and awed if this rumor from The Telegraph is accurate. According to the UK paper, General Motors is set to make some drastic changes to the Chevrolet Volt's European Opel Ampera twin. Specifically, the report suggests that the extended-range-electric-vehicle's powertrain is being redesigned so that the gasoline-fueled engine can and will power the wheels under certain high-speed conditions.

If true – and we're filing this firmly in the rumormill folder for now – this change would completely alter the entire ethos of the Volt idea. GM has gone to great pains to ensure that its green halo vehicle can be called an electric vehicle with a range extender, not a hybrid.

Semantics perhaps, but the distinction has been made clear and driven home by The General. Further, we know that the machine is well into its final development phases, and any changes of this magnitude this late in the game would be darn near impossible to implement in time.

The reason cited by The Telegraph for the recalibration is that Europeans require more power during high speed use. We find that explanation highly suspect as well, unless GM of Europe actually believes the Ampera will spend more time than normal on Autobahns in the far-left lane... which we doubt. Consider too that Europeans are known to embrace vehicles with much smaller and less powerful engines than Americans and the report continues failing to add up.

In any case, the report cites Andreas Voight, an Opel project engineer, who is quoted as saying that we can expect an announcement on the matter this autumn. We'll see, and we'll be pestering GM for a comment in the meantime.



[Source: The Telegraph]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 34 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      "and any changes of this magnitude this late in the game would be darn near impossible to implement in time."

      Unless the software architecture was designed with flexibility up front, so that they could tune the electric/gasoline power balance in calibration?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Flexibility in the design doesn't necessarily translate to flexibility in the final product -- it's effectively a new vehicle, and has to go through testing all over again.
        • 4 Years Ago
        They can't change the fact that it's an EV with software.

        That was the question posed here, whether or not the Volt has(or will be) converted to allow for the ICE to physically power the vehicle as opposed to solely providing electric power as has been the case all along. The Volt(and Ampera) are never powered by the ICE directly, the ICE only recharges the batteries. Both vehicles are electric drive 100% of the time.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Why didn't our version of this car get the same good-looking rear bumper? At least we can be thankful that ours didn't get that weird front-end design(!).
      • 4 Years Ago
      Chevrolet Volt to be powered by engine at high speeds? Seems unlikely.

      I surely hope an engine will power the car at high speed, electric or gasoline. lol
      • 4 Years Ago
      Something they overlooked when they made their comment about Europeans embracing smaller-engined cars is that, at least in Germany, cars with smaller engines are still frequently run over 100mph. I owned an Opel Corsa in Germany in 2007-2008, and I certainly wasn't the only Corsa driver out there who would drive as fast as possible at every occasion on the Autobahn.

      100 mile per hour speeds are common there, and, while I don't know what top speed the electric components of the Volta/Amptera are capable of, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if they changed the configuration in Europe to allow augmentation of the electric engine when more power was required.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm not exactly clear on the ramifications of this.

      So for the first 40 miles, hypothetically if you're cruising at 65mph would those still be all-electricity? Is there some speed threshold for the electrical range where it switches to petrol?
        • 4 Years Ago
        LCN is incorrect, as so many others are as well. The Volt is NEVER driven by the ICE. Only the electric motor puts power to the wheels. The ICE simply supplies electricity to sustain the charge of the batteries once they are depleted beyond a certain point. It's a generator basically. This whole idea simply arose from an ill-informed reporter who is also confused. There would be so much redesign and re-engineering required that it's not worth the trouble.

        As far as a threshold for battery-only driving? That's going to vary. It's much like asking someone to give you an exact estimate on how far you will drive on a couple of gallons of gasoline. You know what the EPA figures are and what your driving suggests, but an accurate figure is virtually impossible to provide. So many things will affect that figure(speed, aggressiveness, load, weather, etc.) that the range could vary dramatically form any moment to the next. Of course driving faster is going to affect your range, just as much as how driving around at 65+mph will affect your fuel economy in an ICE vehicle as well.

        40miles is just GM's estimate based on their research about how the typical commuter uses their vehicle. The 40mile range was also used as a target since it's said that some 80% of drivers, drive less than 40miles per day which allows the Volt to be used virtually gasoline-free a large majority of the time. But, just like with every single other source of energy, YMMV.
        • 4 Years Ago
        My guess is (assuming that this is true) that under heavy acceleration above a certain speed (i.e 50-65mph) the gas engine will kick in an help with acceleration by powering the wheels, while cruising less power is needed, so only the electric engine would directly power the wheels (although the gas engine might still be on acting as a generator). The electrical range will depend entirely on how aggressive your driving is.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I came to post this.
      • 4 Years Ago
      This thing looks SOOOOOO much better than the volt.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yeah, but what you are looking at is only the show-car, not the production version. Expect it to be toned down to Camry class for the masses just like the Volt.
        • 4 Years Ago
        It's going to make an awesome Buick Electra.
      • 4 Years Ago
      the front of the car looks like it is crying. hope that isn't an omen.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Running at 100 MPH uses substantially more power than running at 40 MPH. The range extender just can't supply enough juice to keep the electric motor going at 100. In order for the Volt to keep going the generator needs to supply more power than the motor is sucking from the batteries. If it can't then the batteries are going to continue to drain past the point of limited discharge capacity. To that end the range extender just slows the rate of discharge before the computer cuts the power because we know the gas engine can't supply electricity greater than the rate of consumption from the electric motor.

      GM says the range will be around 300 miles. Right now we have no tested evidence to back that up. I would imagine running at 100 MPH speeds cuts the range down significantly. If we go by the size of the gas tank and the proposed range the Volt only gets 33 MPG at maximum efficiency from running the tank dry. If you add the 40 miles you can go on an electric charge the Volt still only gets 37 MPG total for a full tank. If running at constant high speeds cuts the range in half then the Volt would only return 21 MPG from a full tank. At high speeds the gas engine would probably be far more efficient if it could drive the wheels rather than trying to send juice to the batteries and drive the electric motor.

      The range extender just doesn't make sense in the configuration GM used for the Volt. A standard gasoline engine just isn't efficient enough to use as an electric generator. So much power is wasted as heat and friction.

      The Volt only makes sense if you can keep your daily driving to less than 50-60 miles. Most people will not be able to plug the vehicle in at work or while shopping so the range extender will come into play for most average people. If the range extender can only return somewhere around 30 MPG with reduced power delivery to the electric motor then the Volt just won't be a very good car.

      The Volt may be a great electric car for 30-40 miles but so is every electric car until the batteries run out. The Tesla Roadster is a fantastic electric sports car until you have to charge it. I spoke to a guy at a car show that picked up a Tesla a few weeks before he brought it there. He brought the Tesla to the show again this year and I was able to talk to him again. He still liked the car but he did say that the range has dropped by about 25% since he bought it. The battery packs are degrading a lot faster than he thought.

      If you do buy a Volt you get to be a guinea pig for batteries that still haven't been tested in real world driving conditions. A proving ground can only tell you so much. Until real people get the car and destroy it like only a real person can, we don't know how well the thing will hold up.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Its common to see people driving 80 mph all over the USA. Exactly what type of high speed driving are they doing over there????
        • 4 Years Ago
        On the Autobahn? More than a few folks on the Autobhan cruise well over 100 mph on the segments without speed limits.
        • 4 Years Ago
        about 129.
      • 4 Years Ago
      More journo speculation?
      • 4 Years Ago
      This is one mean looking car. It makes me really consider buying a hybrid vehicle.
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