Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Opel to Launch Electric Model Derived Directly from the Volt in late 2011

GM Europe's President Carl Peter Forster has revealed details on what the company plans to do with the Chevrolet Volt in the European market. Assuming that all goes well during the development phase and the Volt is launched in the US in late 2010, GM's plan is to have the first electric-vehicles (EV) for sale in Europe about a year later, which is late in 2011. According to Forster, Opel and its UK arm Vauxhall will initially introduce a model derived directly from the Chevrolet Volt but more European-market specific EVs are planned for the future.

"The thinking goes that to have a significant impact on the environment, EREVs must be sold in high volumes, hence the reasoning for Chevrolet. The same logic is true for Europe, so the first EREV vehicle will be an Opel/Vauxhall, followed several months later by a Chevrolet,"said Carl Peter Forster. "The Opel/Vauxhall will be derived directly from the Chevrolet Volt to get into the market quickly, but I can assure you that more variations for Opel-specific designs of EREVs are already in the works but more on that at a much later time", he added.

Forster also stated in the company's official European blog that although the first EV variants will come from the States, GM will need to produce the cars in Europe as well.

"The first EREV variants will certainly come from the U.S., but the thinking goes that to get significant long-term volumes to impact our CO2 compliance strategy, we will need production capability in Europe," said Forster.

"Additionally, to deal with the huge cost implications of the new technology (the batteries initially are costing several of thousand Euros more than a typical engine/transmission setup), we need incentives for consumers to off-set the high costs and drive more volume. One thought that I floated in media discussions was that we get early adopter "super credits" under EU CO2 schedules for the initial volumes."

"By giving an Opel/Vauxhall EREV-powered vehicle (which will have an exceptionally low CO2 number) a high multiplier in CO2 fleet averaging, it would allow GM more flexibility in meeting the overall fleet average while pushing the vehicles into the fleet faster than otherwise would have happened. In other words, if one Volt was incentivized in the compliance plan to count as multiple vehicles at that low CO2 number, it would give GM incentive to offer a higher volume of Volts to the market than the affordability of the vehicle would normally warrant. This is a logical use of the regulations to get a desirable shift in consumer behaviour," added Forster.

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