Opel has begun testing two development Ampera extended-range electric vehicle (E-REV) models at its Dudenhofen proving ground and said it was on schedule for late 2011 production.

Engineers have installed the Ampera’s Voltec electric propulsion system – including the battery, motor, engine and electric generator – inside the body of an existing production car.

Staff in Rüsselsheim are testing the Voltec system’s performance and overall driving impression while engineers in Mainz-Kastel have developed and are further testing the lithium-ion battery. 

“The Ampera development cars show that a practical, electric four-seater, with cargo space and the capability to be the first automobile in the household, is not just theory, but a car that will be reality by 2011,” said Frank Weber, vehicle line executive for Ampera development. 

The Ampera is being developed in three distinct phases. The first stage involves the engineering development vehicles, which are used to analyse the behaviour of specific subsystems and get them to work together. These are not complete vehicle tests but work to prove individual subsystems.

In the next phase, integration cars are built with all of the systems coming together. They contain a lot of hand built parts, but are “design intent.” In the final development stage cars look and operate for all intents and purposes nearly exactly the same as the production cars. This phase brings everything together. All the final aero- and wind tunnel work can be done with them. They are the last phase before production.

The Ampera is the European version of GM’s Chevrolet Volt and is a five-door car with four seats. The Voltec ‘range extender’ electric propulsion system uses electricity as its primary power source while a petrol engine-generator combination as a secondary power source will generate electricity when the battery is depleted.

The Ampera’s wheels are turned electrically at all times and speeds and will operate on stored electricty alone for up to 60km.

Electricity from the engine-generator extends the range to over 500 km while the battery can also be charged from a standard household 230v outlet.

The Ampera can be fully re-charged at home in about three hours. Opel is analysing the requirements for standardisation and a recharging infrastructure for plug-in electric cars with energy companies, including Iberdrola of Spain.