- Cris on Ampera Roadshow: A Star on Tour
- MIKE CAPLAN on Our star in Geneva – Ampera is “Car of the Year”
- Paulo Manuel on Ampera@Rallye Monte Carlo – A resounding success
- Jean-Charles Jacquemin on Our star in Geneva – Ampera is “Car of the Year”
- Will Mowat on Our star in Geneva – Ampera is “Car of the Year”
We – the Ampera team – have been watching the lively discussion in the German blog regarding heating with great interest. I’d like to clarify one important point about this and explain our philosophy a bit. The Opel Ampera is above all an electric car. As such, it has electrical heating. This decision was made quite early in the development process and was made for a good reason. The lithium-ion battery supplies the heating system with power when the car is in operation, as does electricity from the socket when the car is parked. This is an effective yet simple and easily understandable concept.
Now we come to the key point: When ambient temperatures drop to under -4°C as they have in the last days (we could have also set -7°C or -2°C as the threshold), we use the specific strengths of the Ampera, the first electrical vehicle suitable for everyday use. Under these conditions we pull out the ace we have up our sleeve, and that is the range extender. Thanks to the range extender’s double duty capabilities, the Ampera practically turns into a mobile block-type thermal power plant. Basically we’re not doing anything other than cogenerating electricity and heat. The waste heat from the engine is immediately used wisely while the electricity produced by the gasoline-powered generator supports both driving and heating operation. This concerted work runs according to the specifications we have programmed and takes place irrespective of variables such as ambient temperature, interior heating needs, battery charge level and driving performance requirements.
Not to be overlooked is the Ampera’s unbeatable starting ability thanks to battery heating. I’m happy to repeat it here: to -40°C plugged in to the charging cable and even still down to -28°C when unplugged.
Our development goal was an electric vehicle with highest possible efficiency that is easy to operate, that transcends the boundaries of “normal” EVs and that can be used by everyone as their main car in any weather. And I contend we reached our goal.
“Driving into the future” – in line with the motto of this year’s Geneva Motor Show (March 8 – 18) we are presenting the design study “RAD e” there. The RAD e is the first e-bike to be built around automotive construction and production principles. We know what we’re doing. After all, bicycle manufacturing has a history at Opel. Some design elements will look familiar to fans of the RAK e and the Ampera. The RAD e’s technical highlights include pedelec technology with a 250 watt motor and electric range between 60 and 145 kilometers.
The Opel Ampera team says thank you for the Blogger Auto Award 2012. “Spontaneous and subjective while being credible, professional and conscientious”, 27 auto bloggers in Germany named the first electric vehicle suitable for everyday use from a German manufacturer winner in the compact car class – together with the BMW 1 series model. Along the lines of the readers’ award held by the trade journal “auto motor und sport”, bloggers were able to choose from a total of 100 candidates in ten vehicle classes in this competition held for the first time.
The Opel Ampera already won 25 national and international awards before its market launch in mid-January. The most recent honour is its nomination for “Car of the Year 2012″ – on March 5 we’ll see if the blogger award winner also becomes “Car of the Year”.
We engineers are already working on the next generation of the Ampera. In order to fine tune the car even better to customers’ needs and utility profiles, we’d like to know what the Ampera driver’s behavior looks like on a day-to-day basis. We get help with this from so-called data loggers in the test cars. Over 40 electric cars equipped with this little box have been in operation in Germany, Dubai, Arizona and Michigan for around two years. Mostly colleagues from the areas of battery development, energy management, powertrain control, endurance testing and quality control gather this valuable field data. I also have one of these small boxes in my company car. I regularly drive to our research center in Mainz-Kastel to “unload” the data, easily and comfortably over W-LAN.
What data are we talking about here? Well, for each car and per week parameters like fuel and electric consumption, air conditioning use, average speed and accelerator pedal position as well as ambient temperature are displayed. Of course the number of drives and loads are also recorded. Altogether, the flight recorder that was developed in Mainz-Kastel can capture 7,500 influencing variables. Around 600 of these are relevant for our purposes. We take a particularly careful look at the battery performance and driving speed histograms as we think about the design of future powertrain systems.
One data logger insight that is a good tip for the efficiency fans among Ampera drivers: more energy can be saved with the air conditioning regulator than with the way the gas pedal is used.
An electric vehicle faces a number of challenges during the winter. For example, its high efficiency – a big advantage – results in no waste heat being available to heat the interior. So the Ampera has “clean” electric interior heating.
Interior heating can require up to 5 kW power which reduces electric driving range. So the Ampera driver who plans ahead uses the standard independent car heater, fed over the grid, for interior heating. The best option is to choose the “Eco” heat setting with moderate temperatures and to activate the automatically controlled seat heating. Should the electric heat performance not be sufficient when temperatures are very low, the range extender can kick in for a few minutes to support the thermal system.
Experience with mobile electric devices such as cell phones and cameras has shown that lithium-ion batteries have substantially less capacity and performance in cold conditions. This is because their internal resistance is higher at low temperatures than it is at room temperature. Cold slows down chemical reactions, causing the lithium-ions to move very sluggishly. If discharging currents are high, voltage – and hence performance – are reduced. Conversely, high charging currents such as those resulting from brake recuperation lead to disproportionately high voltage.
The charging rate is limited by the Ampera control logics. The system ensures the ideal operating state in real time. As we want to offer the driver temperature-independent, constant vehicle performance, we created a special thermal management system in our Alternative Propulsion Center in Mainz-Kastel, Germany. Circulating liquid heats the battery, which thus retains its full performance capability – and that at very low ambient temperatures like for instance -25° Celsius or even lower.
So it really is a good idea to park the Ampera with its charging cable plugged in during the winter. That way the independent heater is supplied with electricity, and thanks to remote control, the car is warm and ready to go with a full battery on cold winter days. We tested this at arctic temperatures of -40° Celsius.
Take a look at some of the latest questions and comments on the German Ampera Blog:
opel-ampera-forum.de: I’m fine driving around without these modifications. Do I have to go to the garage to get them retrofitted anyway?
Moderator @ opel-ampera-forum.de: All Ampera cars should get these modifications. Whoever already has their Ampera will be contacted in writing.
Markus I.: How much heavier do these modifications make the car?
Moderator @ Markus I.: They hardly make a difference, the vehicle weighs just a few pounds more.
Christian Nicklas: Is the acceleration figure from zero to 100 km/h purely electric or with range extender? How was this calculated, with what payload? Was aerodynamic drag factored in?
Dr. Christian Kunstmann @ Christian Nicklas: Acceleration is measured like all cars with curb weight plus 200 kg. The additional weight represents two people weighing 75 kg each and their luggage. The measurement takes place in battery electric operation as well as with range extender. Of course all running resistance factors including aerodynamic drag are factored in.
Sebastian Schlusnus @ Lutz Kleinstück: Interesting article. But why does the automatic climate control need to be adapted to a right-hand drive car?
Lutz Kleinstück @ Sebastian Schlusnus: Control of the blower flaps has to be adapted in a right-hand drive car because the air routing and thereby airflow is different behind the instrument panel.
Rikarda Ampera: Why don’t you publicize the electric consumers’ performance? It would also be interesting to learn what consumption is at various speeds. I wonder what is more economical: driving 90 km/h with only the main e-motor or 100 km/h with the main motor and the second e-motor (generator)?
Dr. Christian Kunstmann @ Rikarda Ampera: Each electric consumer has a defined rated output, but is not always run at this level. A unit’s “cycle consumption” depends on its regulation. Seat heating goes on and off, the air conditioner controls temperature and also air humidity. So external temperature, air humidity, solar radiation, driver’s sweating, etc. all affect consumption, which means that just adding up all consumer rated output figures would lead to a deceptive result. Regardless of how one calculates, imprecision is pre-programmed.
But the good thing about our concept is that no one gets stranded with this car when the battery is run down. On longer trips the combustion engine kicks in. I’ve never been so relaxed driving a pure battery electric vehicle.
By the way, the driver has no influence on the use of the two electric motors. The car’s controls handle this imperceptibly and always along the premise of minimal energy consumption.
News concerning the Ampera modifications. Here’s the latest press release:
“Opel today announced enhancements to the Ampera that are designed to further reduce the potential of a battery fire days or weeks after a severe accident.
The enhancements address concerns raised in the USA by GM and NHTSA about post-crash battery performance of the Chevrolet Volt.
Last year the Ampera already received the maximum five-star safety-rating from Euro NCAP. The enhancements announced today include modifications to the vehicle structure and the battery coolant system, which would provide the battery system with additional protection in a severe side impact.
The modifications in detail:
- Strengthening of an existing portion of the vehicle safety structure
- An additional sensor in the reservoir of the battery coolant system to monitor coolant levels
- A tamper-resistant bracket to the top of the battery coolant reservoir to help prevent potential coolant overfill
“The Ampera has always been safe to drive. Now, our customers will have the additional peace of mind that the Ampera is equally as safe in the days and weeks following a severe crash,” said Karl-Friedrich Stracke, Opel Chief Executive Officer.
The enhancements are being incorporated into the Ampera manufacturing process as production resumes this month after the Christmas break. Cars produced earlier will be retrofitted in Europe, before delivery to customers.
Opel plans to begin delivering the Ampera to customers from February onwards.”
Opel insiders will be familiar with the term K48 – a former production hall which houses an exhibition for visitors to the plant, and where company meetings and other large events which require a lot of space are held. However, the last time the hall was lit up by bright lights there were just a few people in attendance: Opel had invited selected journalists and bloggers to get to know the RAK e concept. The masterminds behind the technology were there to answer questions, including designer Richard Shaw and engineer Stefan Gloger from the RAK e development team.
For the first time, representatives of the media were able not only to sit inside the vehicle, but also to drive a few rounds through the hall. The result: impressed faces and an appetite for more. Opel has not yet reached any decision regarding the serial production. Only if demand is sufficient, will it be possible to offer a vehicle in this completely new segment at an affordable price. All of the parties involved agree that this will have to be considerably less than Euro 20,000.
Well, OK, maybe the Opel RAK e isn’t as well-known as Santa Claus. But our little electric runabout’s popularity continues to grow, as we’ve seen since its premiere at the IAA. That’s why our colleagues are taking a close look at if it should be taken to the next level.
But before we go too far and betray any secrets here, we will be taking a creative break. The blog – including the comments function – will be inactive over the holidays and back up and running on January 2, 2012.
We thank our readers and bloggers for the interesting exchange of information, ideas and opinions during this year and wish you all a happy holiday season.
So how does it really drive? Does the technology work in everyday use? Can the average driver deal with it easily? These questions have been keeping us engineers busy for a long time. The Ampera becomes a part of “real life” with its market launch. So our blog readers, some of whom are ePioneers with a purchase option, can then also enjoy the experience of electric driving.
For some time now I have enjoyed the privilege of driving this car both for business and pleasure. The Ampera has integrated itself seamlessly and silently into my day-to-day life, except that it still turns the neighbors’ heads. Comments like “Wow, is that the Ampera?” and “Man, is it quiet” are indicative of people’s interest in this new technology. I have yet to encounter any skepticism or car/technology cynics.
My company car is my companion through thick and thin, around the clock, in all situations from shopping outings to weekend trips after mounting the child safety seat ( @ Magne E.: of course with Isofix ) and test drives under pre-defined conditions – it’s all there. The pictures were taken on a normal work day in November.