Ampera-Volt To Offer Multiple Battery Size Options

The Opel Ampera, the European version of the Chevy Volt, could be built for easy battery upgrades.

Electric cars are going to be more popular in Europe than in the United States. That’s because, by and large, Europeans have higher gas taxes, denser urban centers, greater consumer acceptance of smaller cars, and more aggressive carbon emission targets.

The importance of electric cars for the European market was underscored this week by Nick Reilly, CEO of Opel-Vauxhall, the European carmaker owned by General Motors.
In a report from Edmunds, Reilly said that Opel-Vauxhall is planning to produce a series of extended-range EVs—with a system similar to the Chevy Volt—each with its own styling.

With every global automaker announcing plans for electric-drive vehicles, Opel’s plans are not surprising. But it’s intriguing that Reilly says the third-generation—that’s two generations away from the Volt rolling out later this year—will have a battery pack designed to only last a few years. Current-generation hybrids have been successful because consumers can expect their extra battery packs to last the full lifetime of the vehicle—without requiring expensive replacements. Instead, Reilly believes, the goal should be to make those upgrades cheap and easy, and therefore reduce the upfront cost of the Volt and the Ampera.

Not Quick Battery Swaps, But Much Greater Battery Flexibility

The key to that cost reduction is the ability to offer the battery pack with a choice of sizes—smaller cheaper packs for shorter all-electric ranges, and larger more expensive packs for longer ranges. Moreover, owners should have the ability to easily remove and replace packs in a matter of a few years—well ahead of the 10-years of battery life expected from the first plug-in cars.

It’s difficult to remove the battery pack on the first-generation Volt-Ampera—because, among other things, it was built with crash protection as the priority. New construction methods, according to Reilly, will create the necessary flexibility for quicker battery upgrades.

The existing Ampera is scheduled to go on sale in Europe in summer 2011. Reilly believe that electric cars and hybrids could take as much as 15 to 20 percent of the European market by 2015.

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  • Used cars Los Angeles

    Interesting article. I dont understand how they’d make the battery available in different upgrades. Shouldnt they just make a standard one? Who knows, maybe the savings are that much of a difference in pricing.

  • Anonymous

    i can see at least 3 grades… first grade similar to current prius battery, second grade similar to prius plug-in battery, third grade larger than prius plug-in battery

  • John K.

    In a way, this makes sense. If you’re a F/T college student or urbanite, you just buy it w/a small, cheaper battery for primarily city driving. When you get a F/T job and have to commute far for work, you upgrade to a larger, more expensive battery (and sell/trade your old, smaller battery to recoup some of the cost). Or, if you’re older, when you retire, you sell/trade your larger battery you used for commuting for a smaller one.

    Plus, it allows you to upgrade your car (like a software upgrade for a computer), when new battery tech (EEStor?) becomes available w/o having to buy an entire new car.

  • ms

    The life time of the vehicle does not justify to have the possibility of exchange the size of the pack.

    However, it makes sense that after batt depletion you can change for other of a different size.

    Ampera will deplete the batteries on
    a very fast way, just like a cell phone.
    As it demands a lot from them, and – would expect that they will
    lose most of their capacity by 2/3 years on a
    daily use.

  • Audio

    Wow, What a great idea.

    Just like memory and hard drives in desktop computers and laptops. They are effectivly creating several models with multiple price points based on a single platform. They can charge a premium to those who can afford to pay and are willing to pay, (The up market consumer who is always paying a premium for the fastest memory, processor, videocard and hard drive) but still market the same product at a lower margin to a ‘low end’ crowd that needs the untility of the basic vehicle and is willing to defer more oomf under the hood knowing they can always upgrade later. This is the ‘it’ that I haven’t seen until now.

    The electric vehicle market presents the largest selling opportunity in the history of the automobile. The Hybrid market is the AOL/dial up of 1992-1995, once you had cable modem and DSL there was no looking back. I’m no tree hugger, but once we rid the cities of auto produced smog, and end that garage grime buildup caused by exhaust so we can actually smell the flowers, grass and trees again, all while saving money over the pump, we will never look back.

  • caroem

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  • Collin Burnell

    15 to 20 percent of the European Market by 2015???

    Yea Right! I think he made a boo-boo.