Best of the Geneva motor show 2009 - 8. Vauxhall Ampera

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There' a bit of an electrical theme running through many of General Motors' offerings at Geneva.

Chevrolet is showing the five-door Spark (see separate story) – an oddly-named car considering it is powered by petrol engines – while Opel, the European partner of Vauxhall, has the all-electric Ampera.

This is the Vauxhall Ampera, the European version of the clever Chevrolet Volt that has been doing the rounds of motor shows in concept and near-production form for a couple of years. It will go on sale in the UK in 2012.

It is driven entirely be electricity and can be recharged either from a domestic power supply or a plug-in point at work or in a city car park. Its range on a charge is 40 miles, but that is enough for most commuter journeys, according to GM.

However, a small engine, which can be fuelled by petrol, biofuel or, looking further into the future, hydrogen, will be fitted to act as a range-extender.
In effect, this serves as an on-board generator to recharge the car's batteries on the move so that there will always be enough electrical supply to allow the car to undertake longer journeys of around 300 miles.

The car has the equivalent of 147bhp and pulling power of 273 lb ft from standstill, giving it a 0-60mph time of around nine seconds and a top speed of 100mph.

The Volt is due to go on sale in America next year, with the Ampera coming to Europe in 2011 and the UK in 2012. Both are built on the platform of the next Vauxhall/Opel Astra that will be revealed at the Frankfurt motor show this autumn.

GM has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the Volt/Ampera project, despite its much-publicised cash crisis. Vauxhall is hoping to get the nod to build the European version at its Ellesmere Port plant on Merseyside.

Why it's so goodFor all the compromises its designers faced, including packaging in the large battery pack and achieving an aerodynamic shape, this is a car that looks good and has an environmental conscience.

Vauxhall Ampera concept car video
Vauxhall's electric Ampera on video

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