At GM we are sure that this technology is the future and it will be sold all over the world. If you want to do better than your competitors, sometimes you just have to be more discriminating with the help you render toward other people.
General Motors could have been fifteen years ahead of the competition in zero-emission cars. They even did so by marketing the EV1, the first 100% electric car produced by a large automobile group in series, as early as 1996.
Three years after launch, despite satisfied customers and a substantial initial investment, GM decides to take over all rental cars from customers overnight before destroying them.
California’s air law has just changed, manufacturers are no longer required to sell electric cars, GM will return to make big 4X4s.
Fifteen years later, back to square one
In the 2000s, however, the market was right for those who saw a green future. Toyota floods the world with its hybrid cars and Tesla explodes. At General Motors, driving there is nothing to see.
We have to wait until 2010 for the group to finally decide to react. But out of the question of copying the competition, GM is going to design an electric one for its sauce. The Chevrolet Volt is announced with great fanfare.
It will upset the standards of the hybrid car. His secret? The car runs on electric mode all the time. But it will be aided by a four-cylinder heat engine that powers a generator.
A global ambition
At GM we are so optimistic about the Volt’s chances of success that we are going to decline it to all sauces. In Australia it is called Holden Volt, in the United Kingdom it will be a Vauxhall and in Europe it bears the Opel Ampera badge.
At the launch press conference, General Motors boss Fritz Henderson promises 1.02l / 100km city consumption! A record that would make the Ampera the most sober hybrid car in the world.
The car is rather well received by the press and even gets the title “Automobile of the Year 2011” in the respected American magazine Motor Trend. But the reality is going to be tougher.
Not that cheap
An innovative solution, the inverted hybridization of the Ampera implies to be interesting to reserve its use for the small trips of the daily life. After recharging all night, the owner can drive in electric mode for 80 kilometers depending on the manufacturer, 35 or 40 depending on the users.
Once the battery is empty, the consumption easily exceeds eight liters per cent and can be close to ten liters without forcing. First big problem, when a classic hybrid is several liters less than a hundred kilometers. But the Ampera will also suffer from at least a vague positioning.
Hybrid, electric, thermal?
The German could be considered an electric car with a “range extender”, since the petrol unit was never in direct contact with the wheels.
At a time when the hybrid car was still an exception, Opel is going to have a hard time defining what the Ampera is. We are talking about a car that is supposed to operate only in electric mode… but which consumes nine liters per cent.
The manufacturer is trying to explain that you can do 500 kilometers with the heat generator, no one understands the value of so much technology when a diesel does much better or a Toyota hybrid consumes five liters.
In the absence of demand, the production line is regularly shut down for the next four short career years, before giving up after only 10,101 copies sold.
Ten years later, when the Ampera had a heat-assisted electric motor, all the hybrids on the market relied on an electric-powered heat engine. Loupé.