While Tesla is proud of their Model 3 possibly turning into an object of desire in just a matter of years, the car that matches, if not surpasses, its criteria is already on the market. In the States, it's been known under the name of Chevrolet Bolt. Europe, on the other hand, has just witnessed the arrival of its sister model, called Opel Ampera-e.

Opel Ampera-e
The most important data (at least for range fanatics) is that, with over 500 km NEDC range, Ampera-e greatly outperforms the majority of its rivals. Its WLTP range is more than 380 km, while the EPA-estimated range is 390 km. The battery pack, consisting of 288 Li-ion cells and with a total capacity of 60 kWh, which was developed in collaboration with LG Chem Group, is mounted flat under the passenger's cabin, assuring ample space for five passengers and their luggage. The car features a IntelliLink infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functions.

Its low-mounted battery provides a low center of gravity and decent driving specs, with acceleration of 3.2 seconds to 50 km/h, and an astounding 4.5 seconds from 80 to 120 km/h. Its top speed is electronically-limited to 150 km/h, in favor of greater range.

Ampera-e has an 150 kW (204 hp)electric motor with a single-speed transmission and 306 Nm of torque, available from the lowest rpm. That means that it takes 7 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h, which is a lot like the acceleration in the much-lighter BMW i3 (with a weaker, 170 hp electric motor). Ampera-e is heavier than i3, owing to its 430 kg battery pack, and a classic construction devoid of excessive use of carbon fibers and other lightweight materials, which explains its much lower price. As Dr. Karl-Thomas Neumann, Opel CEO, pointed out: "Ampera-e is an electric car absolutely suitable for everyday use. It is not eco-luxury, not a gadget and not just a second car in a household."

The drivetrain enables regeneration of electrical energy while running. In a regular "Drive" mode, it kicks in automatically, but softly, as soon as the driver releases the accelerator. It's boosted in "Low" mode, with an increased braking effect, or in "Regen on Demand" mode (in which the driver sets regen strength via the steering column mounted paddles). In the latter two modes, the regenerative braking takes the load off the classic brakes, enabling the driver to adjust the speed (and stop completely) in dense city traffic, just by using the accelerator.

Ampera-e can be charged at DC quick charging stations (CCS plug, 50 kW power) – 30 minutes of such charging is enough for 150 kilometers of driving. AC charging is slower and ranges from 2.3 kW (home plug) to 7.2 kW (wallbox or AC charging station).

Ampera-e has front-wheel drive, and plenty of room, due to a wheelbase of 2.6 m, and batteries tucked away beneath the cabin. It sits somewhat higher, like a crossover, and has generous head space, thanks to its height. The cabin visibility is good, but owing to a significant upward rise of the bottom window frame towards the rear of the car, sitting at the back doesn't feel as easy and airy as it might otherwise. The cabin is distinguished by a touch screen central to the dashboard, and physical air conditioning buttons, which are safer than touch-screen controls. The back seat area is spacious, while the trunk has a capacity of 381 l, or more, when the back seats fold flat.

The prices are not yet known (the car will be on sale in the spring), but will probably start at around 40,000 Euros, which will buy you LED headlights, WLAN access point, IntelliLink infotainment system and Opel OnStar. Unfortunatelly, Vauxhall has no plan to make a RHD verison of Ampera-e for sale in the UK.

VW I.D. – Think New
At the Paris Motor Show, Volkswagen unveiled its I.D. concept with the motto "Think New," of which the production version will reportedly hit the streets as early as in 2020, and which announces the arrival of a new electric line in the not-too-distant future.

I.D. will be the first car by Volkswagen with the new MEB modular electric platform, which will hopefully make it onto the list of Volkswagen's best-selling cars, along with Polo, Golf, Tiquan and Passat. Powered by a 125 kW electric motor, it will exhibit a range of 400 to 600 kilometers, providing the batteries are fully charged. Volkswagen says it will be valued at approximately the same price as its comparable edition Golf.

I.D. was designed following the Open Space Concept, wherein though the vehicle is shorter than Golf, it is no less spacious than Passat. That was made possible by the architecture of the electric motor on the rear axle and a flat high-voltage battery pack under the passenger's cabin. Starting in 2025, I.D. will become the first VW autonomous car, through the activation of the I.D. Pilot mode.

This will take effect upon touching the VW logo on the steering wheel, which will then recede into the instrument panel to give the driver more room. In place of a conventional key, your smartphone will be used to unlock and start the car, while also providing access to the personal profile, containing data on sitting position, air conditioning settings, favorite radio stations and playlists, contacts and navigation system configuration.

Generation EQ, a concept SUV coupé by Mercedes, is a harbinger of a new generation of cars with battery-electric drives, and subsequently a new Mercedes sub-brand. Mercedes-Benz Generation EQ (with the latter standing for electric vehicles) will have a range of up to 500 km on a fully-charged battery.

Fast charging will be possible through the CCS connector that will initially be limited to between a 50 and 150 kW charging capacity, but is eventually planned to reach a 300 kW charging capacity, which will generate 100 kilometers' worth of driving in only 5 minutes. As expected from a car of such a caliber, Generation EQ will deliver safety, comfort, functionality and connectivity. The modular nature of the platform, which has been designed especially for electric vehicles, will make the platform made of steel, aluminum and carbon fiber conform to bodywork of any size.

Two electric motors, one on the front and the other on the rear axle, will generate a system output of up to 300 kW, thanks to the scalable battery pack. Being mounted on their respective axles, they're the source of permanent all-wheel drive, wherein power transfer between the axles is adjustable. Acceleration to 100 km/h takes less than 5 seconds. The EQ is not far from mass production, as Robert Lešnik, Mercedes' Chief Exterior Designer, hinted at the Paris Motor Show. There may be some trivial design and technological touch-ups (arrival on the market is at least three years away), but the first serial EQ should be very similar to this concept version.

April 20, 2017 Driving photo: Paris Motor Show

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