High levels of interest from big fleet buyers have prompted Vauxhall and Opel to increase sales projections for the new Ampera range extended EV.

The model is being rolled out across Europe from the end of this year, first in Germany and will reach UK showrooms around the end of March next year.

Big blue chip companies, eager to display their own green credentials, are showing a lot of interest in the Ampera, according to Opel and Vauxhall chief executive Karl-Friedrich Stracke.

Latest with an announcement is Europcar which wants to make the Ampera available for hire. Europe’s largest car rental company said it plans to work with the carmaker to offer the cars across the region. Europcar and Opel plan to work together to introduce the car to customers, who would then be invited to give feedback on the car through online chats and questionnaires.

Stracke did not say how many vehicles were involved in the deal but described the deal as “significant”. He said he expects Ampera sales across Europe to reach 10,000 a year by 2013 with 70% of sales going to fleets. As sales increase, so do the chances of Ampera production moving across the Atlantic from where it is currently made in Detroit.

If that happens, perhaps for the second generation of the model, Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plant near Liverpool has a strong case for winning the business.

Vauxhall managing director Duncan Aldred said that the company will now sell up to 3,000 cars in the UK next year and it has also increased the number of specialist dealers it wants for the new model from 15 to 23. He hopes to be able to hit volumes of 5,000 Amperas a year from 2013, a number limited only by supply of right hand drive vehicles from the US factory.

The Ampera will go on sale at just under GBP34,000 although the government’s GBP5,000 grant for environmentally friendly vehicles will bring this down to GBP28,995.

As well as large, blue chip companies, Aldred said police forces up and down the country have shown interest in the Ampera.