The Opel Ampera concept and one of the Cruze mules - click above for high-res image gallery
Now that the GM's Chevy Volt engineering team here in the U.S. is starting to get their hands on the 80 IVER prototypes, some of the Cruze based mules they have been using since last fall are being freed up for other uses. That means the engineers at Opel can now get some for local testing in Germany. The first two freshly re-stickered Ampera mules are now doing duty at the Dudenhofen proving near near Opel's Russelsheim headquarters.
Opel engineers have been involved in the Volt program since the start of the program, and have done a lot of battery pack testing at the lab in Mainz-Kastel. Presumably, at least a few of the IVER cars will eventually make their way over to Europe as well. The Ampera is scheduled to be launched in Europe sometime in 2011 after the Volt launches in the U.S. in November 2010. Initial supplies of the Ampera will come from the same Detroit factory as the Volt, with European production unlikely to start until the second-generation car arrives.
Countdown to production: Opel begins Ampera development car tests
# Extended-range electric development cars in testing
# Electrically-driven family car practical for everyday use
# Production on target for 2011
Rüsselsheim. Opel has begun testing two development cars of the Ampera extended-range electric vehicle (E-REV) at its Dudenhofen proving ground, keeping the revolutionary four-seater on schedule for a late 2011 production date.
Engineers have installed the Ampera's revolutionary Voltec electric propulsion system – including the battery, motor, engine and electric-generator – inside the body of an existing production car. They call this kind of a development car a mule because, like their name-sake animals, the mules are a mixture of two species. Mule cars helps engineers test technology at an early stage of vehicle development.
Specifically, engineers in Rüsselsheim are testing the Voltec system's performance and the overall driving impression. In addition, engineers in Mainz-Kastel have developed and are further testing the lithium-ion battery.
"The Ampera development cars show that a practical, electric four-seater, with cargo space and the capability to be the first automobile in the household, is not just theory, but a car that will be reality by 2011," says Frank Weber, Vehicle Line Executive for Ampera development.
Development evolves through three stages
The Ampera is being developed in three distinct phases, or mules. The first stage involves the engineering development vehicles, which are used to analyze the behavior of specific subsystems and get them to work together. These are not complete vehicle tests but work to prove individual subsystems.
In the next phase, integration cars are built with all of the systems coming together. They contain a lot of hand built parts, but are "design intent." In the final development stage cars look and operate for all intents and purposes nearly exactly the same as the production cars. This phase brings everything together. All the final aero- and wind tunnel work can be done with them. They are the last phase before production.
Opel Ampera – electric drive for use any day of the week
The five-door, four-seat Opel Ampera uses the ground-breaking electric propulsion technology called Voltec which operates differently from other advanced propulsion system, like a hybrid. This Voltec electric propulsion system uses electricity as its primary power source. A gasoline engine-generator acting as a secondary power source will generate electricity when the battery is depleted to ensure a seamless and continuous drive.
The Ampera's wheels are turned electrically at all times and speeds. For journeys up to 60 km (MVEG), it runs on electricity stored in the 16-kWh, lithium-ion battery, and emits neither harmful greenhouse gases nor any regulated emissions. The Ampera will be well-suited to the daily driving habits of European customers. For example, approximately 80 percent of German drivers travel less than 50 km a day.
Ampera gives driver confidence and peace of mind
Unlike a conventional battery-electric vehicle, the Ampera eliminates "range anxiety," giving the confidence and peace of mind that a depleted battery will not strand the driver.
When the battery's energy is low, electricity from an engine-generator extends the Ampera's range to more than 500 km. A gasoline/E85-fueled engine-generator seamlessly provides electricity to power the electric drive unit while simultaneously sustaining the charge of the battery. This mode of operation extends the range to 500 kilometers until the battery can be charged by plugging the vehicle's on-board charge system into a standard household 230v outlet.
"An advanced lithium-ion battery system is the key to getting the Ampera into the hands of consumers", said Hans Demant, GME's vice president of engineering. "The engineers at our research and development center in Mainz-Kastel, Germany are testing the battery around the clock, 365 days a year to ensure that it meets the expectations of our customers."
More than 220 lithium-ion cells in the T-shaped pack provide ample power. The nearly silent electric drive unit delivers 370 Nm of instant torque, the equivalent of 150 horsepower, zero to 100 km/h acceleration in around nine seconds, and a top speed of 161 km/h.
Opel estimates that an electrically driven kilometer in the Ampera will cost about one-fifth compared to a conventional gasoline vehicle at current fuel prices.
The Ampera can be plugged into any household 230v outlet and is fully re-charged in about three hours. Opel is analyzing the requirements for standardization and a recharging infrastructure for plug-in electric cars with energy companies, including Iberdrola of Spain.