The Opel Ampera and the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid cars won the European Car of the Year 2012 award voted by a panel of 59 judges from 23 European nations. The Ampera/Volt 330 points against the Volkswagen Up with 281 and Ford Focus with 256. The Volt and Ampera share the same drive system. The Ampera is tailored to the European market. The plug-in hybrids outscored pure battery-electric cars and fuel-efficient turbo diesels.
The award comes as GM and Peugoeot form an alliance targeting 2016 to build common vehicle platforms, components, and global purchasing JV that could save GM $2 billion annually. The alliance and GM electric vehicle leadership could help GM defend its number one global market leadership over Toyota and VW.
Pictured, Opel/Vauxhall CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke and Chevrolet President and Managing Director for Europe Susan Docherty received the award from Car of the Year panel Hakan Matson at the Geneva International Motor Show.
The Ampera and the Volt emerged as the joint overall winner in a field of seven finalists. Initially, 35 recently launched vehicles entered the contest. The selection criteria applied by the judges were based on attributes such as design, comfort, performance, innovative technologies, and efficiency.
The Volt and the Ampera have won many international awards including the “World Green Car of the Year 2011” and the “North American Car of the Year 2011” award. Volt and Ampera also received the maximum 5-star Euro NCAP award.
The Ampera and the Volt can go anywhere anytime. A 16 kWh lithium ion battery powers the 111kW/150 hp electric motor. Depending on the style of driving and road conditions, distance of between 40 and 80 kilometers can be covered in the purely battery-operated mode, completely free of emissions. The wheels of the car are always powered electrically. In extended-range mode, which activates whenever the battery has reached its minimum state of charge, the gasoline engine drives a generator that supplies the electric drive unit. The range extender enables an operating radius of 500 kilometers.
General Motors to Make 65,000 Electric Cars in 2012
The success of the Volt and Ampera has encouraged GM to target making 65,000 electric vehicles in 2012, also including the Cadillac ELR and Chevrolet Spark EV. Originally, most production was scheduled for the U.S. But Volt sales have been below target in the U.S. where subsidized petroleum puts gas prices at half of many European countries. Most GM electric car sales may be to other countries.
The new Cadillac ELR will combine electric car driving with elegant styling and a luxury interior. The Cadillac ELR will use the electric drive system of the popular Chevrolet Volt. Cadillac drivers will now be able to drive 40 miles on an electric charge from home, work, or charge stations, then go hundreds of added miles when the gasoline engine is engaged. Like the Volt, the Cadillac ELR is a plug-in hybrid with an efficient gasoline engine that normally acts as an electric generator, but at some speeds blends power with the electric motor.
When I took the Volt on a long drive down California’s Pacific Coast Highway, the handling was smooth. The Volt hugged the road through sharp turns. In the hills, the 150-hp electric motor easily climbed steep grades. The existing Volt electric motor and 1.4L gasoline engine could handle the added weight expected for the Cadillac ELR, but GM may decide on a slightly larger engine and/or motor.
GM also admits to working on 32 different vehicles with electric drive systems. Not all will be commercialized. Some models will be selected over others. GM will build on the success of the Volt and Ampera, which share its Voltec drive system and lithium batteries.
The Volt and Ampera use GM battery packs containing the LG Chem manganese spinel li-polymer prismatic battery cells. The Cadillac ELR, however, may use A123 nanophosphate lithium ion cells in a new pack. A123 is supplying the batteries for the late-to-market Fisker plug-in hybrids. A123’s finances are vulnerable with Fisker delays.
Next year, you may get the chance to test drive the Cadillac of electric cars. Many won’t wait. The Volt is stylish, well appointed, and has the best OnStar app ever offered. The new Tesla Model S will offer luxury electric car buyers beautiful styling, roomy interior, and up to 300 miles of electric range. The Cadillac ELR is likely to gain the enthusiastic following now enjoyed by the Volt and build on GM’s proven electric car success.
Chevrolet Volt owners love their new cars. Jackson Browne told me that he has only used 8 gallons of gasoline during the 2,000 miles that he has driven his Chevrolet Volt. Jackson is famous as a singer, songwriter, and inductee in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’ve interviewed many Chevrolet Volt owners who love their electric cars.