Opel Ampera unveiled at Geneva motor show 2009

Published: 02 March 2009

This is the new Vauxhall/Opel Ampera extended-range hybrid – just unveiled at the Geneva motor show – and General Motors has confirmed it’ll go into production in the second half of 2011. And it won’t just be as an Opel (or American Chevrolet Volt), there will be a right-hand drive Vauxhall version too.

What must I know about the Vauxhall Ampera?

For a start it’s a petrol-electric extended-range hybrid, which means the electric motor at first uses the energy stored in the lithium-ion batteries to travel up to 60km (38 miles), and then the petrol engine kicks in, not to drive the wheels but to charge the battery, thus giving the car a potential range of 500km (312 miles).

GM calculates that’s enough for 80% of German drivers to run CO2-free every day, but of course that does just pass the issue of CO2 emissions onto the source of the electricity. Nevertheless, customers will be drawn by GM’s claim that the Ampera will cover every mile five times more cheaply than a conventional petrol-engined car.

But just in case you’re interested in performance, the Ampera has 273lb ft all the time, and the equivalent of 148bhp, which is enough for it to reach 62mph in around nine seconds, before going on to 100mph.

It’s a relief to see the Ampera doesn’t look identical to the Insight and Prius in silhouette…

Indeed, though the looks of the five-door are still designed to be as aerodynamically efficient as possible, so that means elements like the rear bumper with vents to rival the new Murcielago SV. Sort of. Overall, the Ampera looks low and aggressive, with big boomerang headlights, a deep front spoiler and ground-hugging stance.

Inside you’ll find four seats, 301 litres of luggage space, a touch-screen infotainment system and a gear selector that slots into the centre console. Expect the Ampera to cost £20-25k when it goes on sale in 2011 – if GM’s still in business then, that is…

>> A drop in the ocean amongst GM’s problems, or the company’s saviour? Click ‘Add your comment’ below and have your say

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy