Electric Vauxhall Ampera confirmed for UK

The Vauxhall Ampera has celebrated its world premiere at the Geneva Motor Show, and sales of the electric car with a 300-mile extended range will start in the UK in 2012.

Vauxhall says that the Ampera will be the first electrically driven car with zero-emission capability in Europe that’s suitable for everyday driving.

The Ampera’s wheels are turned electrically at all times and speeds. For journeys up to around 40-miles, it runs on electricity stored in the 16-kWh, lithium-ion battery, and emits zero CO2.

While driving on electricity delivered by the battery, the Ampera emits zero CO2. When the battery’s energy is depleted, a petrol or E85-fuelled 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 for several hundred additional miles, until the battery can be charged via a standard household 240V outlet.

Unlike a conventional battery-electric vehicle, the Ampera eliminates “range anxiety,” giving the confidence and peace of mind that the driver will not be stranded by a depleted battery.

“Advanced lithium-ion battery technology is the key to getting the Vauxhall Ampera into the hands of consumers,” said Hans Demant, GME vice president of engineering. “The engineers at our research and development centre in Mainz-Kastel, Germany, are testing the battery round the clock, 365 days a year, to ensure that it meets the needs and expectations of our customers.”

The Ampera’s battery pack will be manufactured by GM at the first lithium-ion production facility to be operated by a major automaker in the United States. 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 15bhp, zero to 60mph acceleration in around nine seconds, and a top speed of 100mph.

The Ampera can be plugged into any household 240V outlet for charging. GM Europe is analysing the requirements of a recharging infrastructure for plug-in electric cars with energy companies, including Iberdrola of Spain, parent company to Scottish Power.

The five-door, four-seat Ampera features Vauxhall’s new design language, first introduced on the 2009 European Car of The Year award-winning Insignia, incorporating  several styling cues from the innovative Flextreme and GTC Concept show cars.

Aerodynamics play a particularly important role in maximising driving range. GM engineers and designers worked together to optimise the air flow around the front fascia and outside mirrors of the Ampera. Significant attention was also given to the rear with a specifically designed spoiler and clean separation features. Lightweight materials were added in the form of clear polycarbonate covers to the front grille and disc inserts on the 17-inch, five-spoke sport alloy wheels. These helped to reduce aerodynamic drag in critical airflow areas.

“The Ampera further demonstrates GM’s leadership in the electrification of the automobile,” said Carl-Peter Forster. “Its ground-breaking Voltec electric propulsion system is the kind of game-changing technology the automotive industry needs to respond to energy and environmental challenges.”

“The Vauxhall Ampera shows all the opportunities advanced propulsion technologies offer for car design,” said Phil Zak, Director, Exterior Design at GM Europe. “We had to maximise the aerodynamic efficiency but still offer ultimate everyday driving comfort. All of that is presented in an upscale, sporty look that builds on Vauxhall’s theme of sculptural forms and expressive lines.”

“Driving electrically is not only about ecology,” said Frank Weber, GM global vehicle line executive and chief engineer. “Driving electrically is also great fun. Instantaneous torque of 370 Newton metres under your right foot feels like being in a sports car, but in almost complete silence.”

The Ampera will be well-suited to the daily driving schedule of most customers.  For example, research by GM in Europe showed that approximately 80 percent of drivers travel less than 30 miles daily. Based on current fuel prices, Vauxhall predicts that the Ampera will cost roughly one-fifth of the current cost per mile of an equivalent petrol engined car.