GM CEO Mary Barra Confirms Bolt EV Headed to Europe As Ampera-e Electric Car

While General Motors withdrew the Chevrolet brand from Europe at the end of 2015, there’s been some hope among European plug-in fans that the Chevrolet Bolt EV would find itself transported across the pond from the U.S. and given a new identity as a member of the Opel and Vauxhall brands.

This morning at the CAR Symposium in Bochum, Germany, that’s exactly what GM CEO mary Barra confirmed, announcing the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV will head to Europe in the near future as the Opel Ampera-e. Although we’re sad to see the car lose its Bolt name for Europe, its European name is clearly a nod to the Opel/Vauxhall Ampera. the name under which the first-generation Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car was sold in Europe.

It's official: Mary Barra confirms the Bolt EV is heading to Europe

It’s official: Mary Barra confirms the Bolt EV is heading to Europe

Name aside however, the Opel Ampera-e is identical in every important way to the upcoming Chevrolet Bolt EV. It will share the same chassis, 60 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, and powerful 150-kilowatt front-wheel drive electric motor. It will likely also use the same on-board 7.7 kilowatt charger, although there’s no word if CCS quick charging capability will be offered as an option as it will be in North America.

Inside, there’s the same seating for five, and thanks to last year’s official launch of OnStar in Europe, we’d the same always-on interconnected telematics system found on North American Bolt EVs. The only real difference is a slightly modified front and rear bumper, as well as an all-new badge reflecting the different European-market name. In keeping with European-market cars, we can expect a Type-2 charging inlet and Type 2 CCS variant (if offered) in place of the J-1772 inlet prefered in North America.

The Ampera-e looks almost identical to the Bolt EV.

The Ampera-e looks almost identical to the Bolt EV.

As for specifications? There are usually some difference between markets, but we’d guess the Bolt EV will benefit from folding door mirror to assist parking in the smaller parking bays found in Europe, as well as the addition of things required by European law such as user-programmable speed limiters and rear fog lights. Sadly though, full specifications have not been released by GM or its European arm Opel. These are likely to be released in the coming months, most likely after the Ampera-e has been given its official European-market range tests on the NEDC test cycle.

Here, we feel it’s important to remind readers the difference between the U.S. EPA test cycle and European NEDC cycles. While the EPA test cycle has become fairly representative of modern real-world driving in recent years, with range-tests that buyers can at least use as an approximate guide to real-world performance, the NEDC test cycle is notoriously optimistic.

As a guide, it rates the same 30-kWh Nissan LEAF electric car sold in the U.S. with an EPA-approved 107-mile range as having a 155-mile range per charge. Consequentially, we’re guessing NEDC test figures will give the Bolt EV Ampera-e an unachievable 280+ miles of range per charge.

Also not discussed in today’s announcement is price. While GM promised the Opel Ampera-e will be ‘affordably priced,’ it’s likely that European customers will (at least initially) find themselves facing a higher purchase price due to the import duties and shipping costs of bringing the Ampera-e from the U.S. to Europe. If it is successful, it’s possible the Opel Ampera-e may be manufactured locally, something that helped bring down the cost of the Nissan LEAF in Europe when Nissan shifted local production from Japan to the UK. Unless that happens however, we’re predicting the Ampera-e will attract a price tag of between €30,000 ($34,000) and €35,000 ($39,700) before incentives at launch. To reiterate however, we’d like to underscore this is a price prediction based on the kind of premiums fist-generation Volt and Ampera customers faced in Europe compared to U.S. Volt owners between 2011 and 2015.

The new name badge is subtle and suggests the Volt could return as the Ampera too.

The new name badge is subtle and suggests the Volt could return as the Ampera too.

All in all, today’s news should bring a sigh of relief to any Bolt EV fan who has been waiting for more than a year to find out if the Bolt would make the transition across the Atlantic to Europe. But it also leaves some big questions yet unanswered.

First of all, while GM did not officially announce the Ampera-e would come to the UK as the Vauxhall Ampera-e, it’s worth noting that the press release announcing the car’s arrival in Europe appears on both Opel and Vauxhall media sites. Moreover, two of the images accompanying the announcement are labeled as being “Vauxhall Ampera-e,” although we note that the cars in both images are wearing Opel, not Vauxhall badges.

That’s a great piece of news for UK fans, and possibly hints that the Bolt EV will also head to Australia and New Zealand at some point in the future as the “Holden Bolt EV”.

We suspect the Holden Bolt will follow the Holden Volt in Australia

We suspect the Holden Bolt will follow the Holden Volt in Australia

Even if that happens however, we should caution those in RHD markets that the official launch could lag behind the LHD European launch by anything from a few months to several years, since the development of a car for RHD market requires a whole new homologation and certification process to the LHD model.

Secondly, the chosen name — Ampera-e — does suggest that alongside making the connection between the outgoing Ampera and the new all-electric model GM may be rethinking its plans for the new Chevrolet Volt. While GM had initially said it had no plans to bring the second-generation range-extended electric car to Europe as the Opel/Vauxhall Ampera, confirming it wouldn’t make a right-hand version of the car, recent spy shots of a mildly camouflaged Volt wearing new body panels with a circular badge being tested in Michigan suggested otherwise.

If GM has changed its mind on bringing the Volt to Europe, it would make sense to sell it as the Opel Ampera. The Bolt EV’s European name — Ampera-e — would give the two cars the same closely-related synergy as Volt and Bolt in the U.S.

Are you excited to hear GM’s longest-range electric car is heading to Europe? How much will you pay for one? And do you think that European buyers will want it?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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