Most gearheads know the Opel Ampera is the European near-twin of the Chevy Volt. There are obvious exterior differences, such as the Ampera's "boomerang" headlights and Opel badging, but inside, the only noticeable difference is another Opel badge on the steering wheel.

Bradley Hasemeyer and the Translogic crew traveled to Germany to find out if the trans-Atlantic differences were more than skin deep. Surprisingly, he found one rather interesting revision.

In the U.S., Volts get three driver-selectable operating modes. We get Normal, Sport and Mountain modes. But German Amperas get a fourth mode: Halten mode (aka, "battery hold"). When cruising the Autobahn, drivers can restrict the use of the Ampera's battery and run only on the small, fuel-efficient engine. Once back on surface streets, they can turn loose the battery and bask in bank-account-boosting, ridiculously good, low-cost electric motor cruising.

Why don't we get Halten mode in the U.S.? Well, the obvious reason is probably that most Americans don't speak German. Beyond that, though, Hasemeyer can only guess that government regulations might hold back implementation here. The again, maybe General Motors just likes Germans more. At least we can use Mountain Mode to gain some of the Halten mode's benefits.

Watch the video after the jump.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 33 Comments
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 2 Years Ago
      it's even more ridiculously priced in europe iirc
      Spec
      • 2 Years Ago
      Is this the difference between Mountain Mode and Halten: Mountain Mode - actually charges up the battery while on flat land so that you have good charge when starting to climb. Halten - Doesn't charge the battery but doesn't deplete it either.
      paulwesterberg
      • 2 Years Ago
      If the US volt drivers put it into Halten(gas mode) on the freeway that would make the justification for the volts carpool lane sticker pretty ridiculous. The volt gets 40mpg on the highway when running on gas while the prius gets 48mpg on the highway but is not eligible for the sticker.
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 2 Years Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        You sure it gets 40mpg? the voltstats site seems to show an average of 25-30mpg on the highway. The Karma is way, way worse, getting something like 20mpg on gas...
          theflew
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          @2 Wheeled Menace, The range extender will come on at below 26F to help warm the cabin using coolant from the ICE. It only stays on for maybe 5 minutes or so, but it will eat into you MPG since you could be in city traffic going a very short distance but the ICE is running. Once it shuts off you have all your EV range. But it possible if you aren't driving high enough speeds or your climate is in ECO mode that the ICE will cycle on again for a few minutes.
          2 Wheeled Menace
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          theflew; we're talking strictly about the fuel economy that the range extender alone gets.
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          "The Karma is way, way worse, getting something like 20mpg on gas..." The Karma weighs roughly as much as a Volt and a Leaf *combined*, so of course it gets half the mileage...
          mapoftazifosho
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          EPA rated. I want to believe that some of these driver's may only go into CS mode under winter conditions and therefore may skew that number to the low end. Just a thought.
          theflew
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          I agree with mapoftazifosho. My Volt mileage starts changing below ~50 degrees. In the midwest even with the mid winter temperatures were in the 30's and 40's which means the heat was on reducing EV miles and increasing the chance of the ICE coming on.
          2 Wheeled Menace
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          The numbers are recent. North America hasn't been getting much in the way of a winter. Just sayin.
        Grendal
        • 2 Years Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        @paulwesterberg You're right that it might not be as economical in gas mode as the Prius but allowing the Volt in the HOV lane has more to do with promoting the new technology than being the most economical. It's politics, not environmental reasons like it should be...
      Henkka
      • 2 Years Ago
      I've been wondering what happens when the battery runs out and the gas engine pops in, does it also charge the battery while it's on? If it's not, the reason prolly is that electricity is cheaper than gas.. But still I'd like to have the opportunity..
        Ele Truk
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Henkka
        Yes, the gas engine charges the battery, but it won't stay running to top off the battery, simply because as you mentioned electricity is cheaper than gas.
      • 2 Years Ago
      The "Halten" mode enables European drivers to enter environmental zones, in which cars have limited access depending on their emissions. http://www.tuev-nord.de/en/FAQ-Questions_about_environmental_stickers_8771.htm http://www.tolltickets.com/country/germany/emissionsticker.aspx?lang=en-GB
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 2 Years Ago
        wow, they got it pretty wrong eh..
        RC
        • 2 Years Ago
        How could they possibly police that?
          pmpjunkie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @RC
          With infrared imaging of passing cars they can easily police that.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 2 Years Ago
          @RC
          You have to have a window sticker/permit that allows entry to certain areas. Kind of like having a speedpass that gets scanned when you enter onto a toll road. Cars that meet the legislative requirements can be given an id sticker that allows them entry into central districts. Currently, London uses a system of cameras connected to a database of license plates that keeps tabs on which vehicles are allowed. http://www.bestufs.net/download/Workshops/BESTUFS_II/Madrid_Mar08/BESTUFS_Madrid_March08_Samantha_Kenedy.pdf
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @RC
          It would be easy enough to mandate a green light on the dash while in EV mode...
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @RC
          It would be very difficult, but the legislation means that you get the Halten mode. If you have that, why would you not use the engine on the autobahn where it is efficient, and electric in the city where that is efficient? Plus as electric cars catch on any passing policeman who saw signs of a combustion engine running could act. if they really wanted to get heavy cars now are monitored in many ways, and will be monitored in more in the future. I have little doubt that they would be able to match engine data to the sat nav.
        throwback
        • 2 Years Ago
        It seems more cities in Europe are headed towards "zero" emissions within the city limits.
      christianii
      • 2 Years Ago
      that mode does make a lot of sense. I generally take the highway to work..i could use the EV to get to the highway, then switch over to gas...and use EV to get back home cause I take the streets home.
      winc06
      • 2 Years Ago
      I think the real explanation is that like other hybrids, extended high speed running will discharge the battery. In Germany road speeds are way above the design parameters of this car and the option is logical there. Probably not a problem at US prevailing freeway speeds of about 75 mph. I do have a problem with the article calling the internal combustion engine in the Ampera small and effcient. Does it have a different engine than the Volt? If not it must be quite an experience in the right hand lane being passed by everything and getting about 20 mpg.
        theflew
        • 2 Years Ago
        @winc06
        The Volt can do 100 mph in any mode. Just because there is a hold mode doesn't mean the battery isn't used at all. The ICE in the Volt is only ~ 80hp vs. the electric motor at 149hp, so if you're going to do any passing the electric motor will be providing the necessary power. Once the maneuver is done the ICE can generate the power used and return it to the battery. All "Hold mode" means is battery is maintained at it's upper level while it's on. It's basically like the US Volts Mountain mode just with a higher state of charge for the battery.
          Grendal
          • 2 Years Ago
          @theflew
          So. If you begin at your home in the city, then hit "Mountain Mode" as you get on the freeway. As you get off the freeway turn off the Mountain Mode you'd have similar circumstances to the Halten Mode. It's not quite as cut and dry as the Ampera you can still have some control over when you are running pure electric.
          theflew
          • 2 Years Ago
          @theflew
          @Grendal, I'm sure from a software standpoint Hold and Mountain Mode are about the same. The difference is Mountain mode will only let you charge the battery to ~35% SOC. I assume Hold mode will let the SOC stay at ~85% or whatever the Volt's maximum charge capacity is set too.
        SVX pearlie
        • 2 Years Ago
        @winc06
        The Ampera has the same engine as the Volt. But you are correct - EVs run out of steam at 75 mph, and US highway cruising at 80+ mph simply isn't an option if you want to preserve the battery. Not the least due to EVs being geared for lower, city speeds. Having driven the Autobahn, typical speeds in clear traffic are around 100 mph, which really is too much for a standard EV drivetrain to run efficiently. That said, a tiny gas engine in an aerodynamic car will maintain 100+ mph comfortably (once it gets up to speed) - I've seen it myself!
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          Yes, as I noted, it's an issue of "EVs being geared for lower, city speeds. "
          theflew
          • 2 Years Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          @Dave R, Also the Volt effectively has a CVT which allows it to go 100mph without pushing the motors to much.
          Dave R
          • 2 Years Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          The only reason why standard EV drivetrains run less efficiently at high speeds is the lack of gearing to keep the motor it's sweet spot. It's a trade-off - less low speed acceleration/efficiency and less high speed acceleration/efficiency for the simplicity of a single-speed gearbox. Electric motors have torque/efficiency curves just like ICEs - the torque/efficiency curves are just much, much flatter which lets them get away with a single speed gearbox. This is why the LEAF beats the Volt to 30 mph despite 50% less power - it's geared for lower top speed (being lighter doesn't hurt, either). Above 45 mph the Volt kills the LEAF thanks to having more power. Taller gear ratios will easily allow max efficiency cruising at 100+ mph. But unless you make the gearbox a multi-speed unit you will sacrifice low-speed efficiency and acceleration in the process.
        MTN RANGER
        • 2 Years Ago
        @winc06
        Yes, the Volt/Ampera has a max speed of 100 MPH (Plugin Prius 112MPH, Leaf 90MPH, Focus Electric 84MPH). I wonder if future models will be higher.
          Ele Truk
          • 2 Years Ago
          @MTN RANGER
          Probably not, higher speeds mean lower range, and in an effort to give EVs the best range, they are electronically limited at the top end. In the US, anything over 70 MPH is speeding.
      EZEE
      • 2 Years Ago
      Marco! When are yours supposed to arrive, holy sh*t they are taking a long time.
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