If you're familiar with the 2011 Chevrolet Volt range-extended EV, then you're already familar with the Opel Ampera, since it's essentially the same car.
The Ampera will be sold under General Motors' other brands, the Germany-based Opel and in the U.K. as the Vauxhall Ampera. It's not uncommon for some of GM's products to be sold worldwide - the Opel Astra was sold as a Saturn in the U.S. and the Buick Regal is heavily based on the Opel Insignia. For that reason, all the facts and figures that Chevrolet claim for the Volt also apply here. You'll find a wealth of information on the Volt in GreenCarReports' Ultimate Guide to the 2011 Chevrolet Volt.
What hasn't been known until now though is how much the European model would cost. Wonder no longer - prices for the Ampera start at 42,900 Euros, or $58,745. We're accustomed to seeing higher retail prices in Europe and they can never be compared like-for-like between the continents, but even so it makes the U.S. Volt base price of $41,000 look positively bargainous.
The European price quoted includes the German sales tax or "Value Added Tax" (VAT) applied to all new vehicles, meaning the net price is 36,050 Euros ($49,352). Opel advises that the price will differ slightly market to market, as different countries have different specification requirements, some more luxurious than others.
Reservations have already started at www.opel-ampera.com and interested parties will be given the title of "ePioneer", receiving exclusive news on the car and opportunities for test drives.
Styling wise, the Ampera is perhaps more daring than the fairly conservative looks of the Volt, reflecting the wide variety of European tastes in cars. The boomerang-style lights at the front are particularly eye-catching, and the front chrome grille fits in with the rest of the Opel range. The Vauxhall version will no doubt sport Vauxhall's distinctive "V" design grille.
The rear of the car is arguably prettier than the Volt too, though visibility may be compromised by the narrower slit of glass at the edge of the tailgate.
Inside, it's all very Volt-like and the only real changes should be in the trim levels and materials.
Sales of the Ampera will begin in the fourth quarter of 2011, meaning European buyers will have to wait around a year longer than their American counterparts. Conversely, it should give Opel a chance to iron out any bugs that might be discovered in the first year of Volt sales.
It remains to be seen how successful the Ampera will be in the European market. Whilst traditionally open to more economical cars and new technologies, the price will make the car a very hard sell, when diesel versions of the equivalent-size Opel Astra start at less than 20,000 Euros (just over $27,000) and deliver 4.1 liters per 100km, or 57mpg.
On the other hand, the basic diesel Astra has less than half the power of the Ampera from an engine smaller in capacity than the Ampera's range-extending motor, so those looking for performance might be better served by the extended-range EV.
The Ampera will also be ideal for drivers who rarely commute more than the 40 miles that an Ampera can manage in pure electric mode. In Europe where commutes are shorter than those in the U.S, the car potentially makes financial sense and many drivers could drive thousands of miles without ever needing the gasoline engine. As we've seen though, even with a relatively cheap EV like Renault's upcoming Fluence Z.E, the payback can take a number of years.
As always, we'll be keeping you updated with further Opel Ampera and Chevrolet Volt news as we get it, so watch this space.