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Chevrolet Volt to go on sale in Europe

Bow tie: The Chevrolet Volt, seen here at a charging station, is likely to push $70k in Holden guise when it arrives here in 2012.

European Volt price of €41,950 points to Oz price of $65k+

Holden logo9 Mar 2011

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

GENERAL Motors has announced that the Chevrolet Volt range-extender EV will go on sale in Europe alongside the closely-related Opel Ampera, citing a German-market price of €41,950 ($AU57,800).

At current exchange rates, that is about 40 per cent higher than the list price of the US Volt and could serve as an indication of the car’s price in Australia when it arrives next year.

While the strong Australian dollar converts the European Volt’s price to about $58,000, a return to a historically typical exchange rate of about 1.65 Dollars to the Euro points to an Aussie Volt price approaching $70,000 – significantly higher than the expected sub-$50,000 price of Nissan’s Leaf EV and far outstripping hybrids including the sub-$40,000 Toyota Prius, Lexus CT200h and $29,990 Honda Insight.

In the US, the Volt retails for US$41,000 (AU$40,600) and federal government tax breaks of up to US$7500 are on offer to reduce the cost. However it remains a pricy car when compared with the US$32,780 (before tax breaks) Nissan Leaf EV and the Lexus CT200h hybrid hatch (US$29,120).

Compared with the all-electric Leaf and hybrids such as the CT200h, the Volt offers the unique proposition of functioning as an EV without the range anxiety. GM claims that the Volt’s 50-80km zero-emissions range is sufficient for most daily commutes to take place without ever requiring the range-extender engine to kick in.

13 center imageFrom top: Opel Ampera, Nissan LEAF, Lexus CT200h.

However for longer trips, in addition to energy harvested through regenerative braking, the Volt’s 62kW 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine can kick in to run a 55kW generator, providing power to the electric motors, topping up the batteries when they run low and extending the range to 610km.

For everyday use, the Volt’s 16kW/h T-shaped batteries – located under the rear seats to provide a 300-litre boot capacity – can be charged in under four hours from a standard household 240V socket.

The Volt’s two electric motors deliver a total of 111kW and 370Nm through the front wheels, providing a nine-second 0-100km/h sprint and a top speed limited to 160km/h. Power from the petrol engine is only used to generate electricity and never directly drives the wheels.

As the Volt is still over a year from reaching Australia, Holden could not confirm whether the European announcement was indicative of local pricing but as GoAuto reported in December last year, Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux admitted that the Volt would be expensive and that Holden would make very little or no profit from sales of the first-generation vehicle.

GM’s decision to sell the Chevrolet Volt in Europe alongside the Opel Ampera – which is set to go on sale at €42,900, just $950 more than the Volt – came as something of a surprise.

The Ampera is to all to all intents and purposes a badge-engineered Volt, with different front- and rear-end styling and an almost identical interior with metallic-finishes to interior surfaces differentiating it from the iPod-style pearlescent white of the Volt.

Holden was unable to confirm whether the European marque is planning on adding the Ampera to the Australian Opel line-up it in addition to the Corsa, Astra and Insignia that will arrive next year.

In the UK, the right-hand drive, Vauxhall-badged Ampera is subject to a 5000 ($AU8000) government subsidy, reducing the price to 28,995(AU$46,400).

In addition, it is eligible for free road tax (rego), London congestion charge exemption and low 5 per cent company car taxation, which will make it attractive to fleets.

For comparison, the diesel-powered Vauxhall Insignia ecoFLEX Elite – which emits just 129 grams per kilometre of CO2 – is similarly priced and a popular fleet purchase, but is rated at 18 per cent for company car tax while missing out on free rego after its first year and has to pay to enter the London congestion charge zone.

Meanwhile, the Australian government continues to offer no such incentives for cars like the Volt.

Like Australia-bound Volts, the European-delivered cars will be produced in Michigan to begin with. It has been reported in Europe that production will move to the continent for the second generation, or even sooner if demand is high enough.

Similarly to the Ampera, European-delivered Volts will include a ‘hold’ feature that forces the car to run in range-extender mode, saving the batteries until the driver wishes to run in electric-only mode.

This is designed for people who commute from out of town and want to guarantee EV-only running for their urban destination to reduce smog, to comply with Europe-specific restrictions allowing only zero-emissions vehicles to use certain roads or avoid certain road tolls.

A Holden spokesperson told GoAuto that the company is undecided on whether this feature will become available on the Holden-badged Volt.

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