The Opel Ampera is a rebadged Chevrolet Volt, using the same body with some styling modifications, along with the Volt's series hybrid power train. That means an electric motor driving the wheels with 236 pound-feet of torque powered by a lithium-ion battery pack. It can go 40 miles under electric power, after which a three-cylinder gasoline engine kicks in, generating enough electricity to turn the motor for another 270 miles.
The mud-splattered fender of the Ampera on display in Geneva wasn't due to a lax cleaning staff. Where most cars get carried to the show on trucks, Opel chose to drive the Ampera from its Russelsheim, Germany, facility to the Geneva show as a proof of concept. During the car's 340 miles journey, it would have used up its battery power and had to fire up its gas engine, and would have required one fill-up.
GM also gave floor space to the Chevrolet Volt, the Opel Ampera's sibling. Offering the same performance specifications as the Ampera, GM is planning on selling the Volt in Europe as part of its expanding Chevrolet presence.
BMW's 5 Series ActiveHybrid uses a twin-turbo 3-liter straight-six-cylinder engine, similar to that found in the 535i. The addition of a 40-kilowatt motor and lithium ion battery pack gives the car 10 percent better fuel economy and fewer emissions than its gas-only equivalent. In situations such as heavy traffic, the hybrid system can shut off the engine and drive the car under electric power.
Although technically still a concept, BMW's previous announcement of the 7 Series ActiveHybrid and X6 ActiveHybrid show that the company is serious about the technology. Competition with Mercedes-Benz, which already has production hybrids, should force a production version of the hybrid 5 Series.
Following BMW's sport luxury hybrid concepts, Audi announced its own hybrid, the A8 Hybrid concept. Audi downsizes the A8's engine considerably, using its turbocharged direct injection 2-liter four-cylinder, complemented by a 33-kilowatt electric motor and lithium ion battery pack.
The hybrid system can drive the A8 under electric power at up to 40 mph. Like the Toyota Prius, this hybrid system uses its electric motor for extra boost, steady cruising, and creeping forward in heavy traffic. Audi estimates the A8 Hybrid would get 38 mpg, about a 100 percent improvement over a V-8 A8, while still making it to 60 mph in about 7.5 seconds.
The cabin of the A8 Hybrid gets the same luxury treatment as the standard A8, with the addition of this power flow animation. Cabin appointments include a Bang & Olufsen audio system, which delivers excellent sound quality, and the new handwriting recognition interface we tested at the Detroit auto show.
Unlike its Audi brethren, Volkswagen is definitely launching the Touareg Hybrid as a production model. The hybrid version comes with a general redesign for the Touareg, in which Volkswagen reduced weight by over 450 pounds and made it more aerodynamic.
The Touareg's hybrid system uses a 3.6-liter V-6 engine combined with electric motor and battery pack to produce 304 horsepower and 428 pound-feet of torque. The electric motor can drive the car at speeds up to 30 mph, after which the gas engine kicks in. The hybrid system gives the Touareg an estimated 29 mpg, not a huge number but significantly higher than the gasoline-only models.
The Touareg Hybrid, along with the standard engine versions, plays host to a new set of high-tech gear. Four cameras around the car help drivers negotiate canyons and parking garages. Adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance help drivers during lengthy road trips.
Just because it is a hybrid, Volkswagen doesn't skimp on the off-road gear. A simple dial puts the car into an off-road mode, where electronic stability and antilock brake response is adjusted, and hill descent is engaged. The air suspension can also maximize ground clearance.