The logo of Opel comprises an electric flash in a roundel. The company has gone on record stating that by 2024 it would fully electrify all its models and electric versions would be available for each one of them. Opel already offers several electric options to buyers in the form of the Corsa-e, Grandland X Plug-in Hybrid, the Opel Vivaro, Opel Combo-e, Opel Zafira -e life and the successor to Astra.
Opel has been romancing electric propulsion for not five or six years but for more than fifty years. The romance started way back in 1968 with the Kadett B Stir-Lec I. This car demonstrated the concept of range extender which would finally see the day of light in the Opel Ampera. The Stir-Lec I was powered by fourteen lead acid batteries which were continuously charged by a Stirling engine in the mounted at the back of the car. In 1971, George Van Opel, the grandson of the founder of Opel broke six electric vehicle world records in an Opel Electro GT. This car was powered by two coupled electric motors which produced a combined output of 120 BHP. These motors could push the Opel Electro GT to a top speed of 188 km/h. The motors drew energy from a Ni-Cd battery pack which weighed 590 Kg which gave the car a range of 44 km when driven at a constant speed of 100 Km/h.
There was a pause in development of electric propulsion as Internal Combustion Engines rule the roost. However, global warming and pollution catching up, Opel went back to the drawing boards in 1990 and came up with the Opel Impuls series between 1990 and 1997. The series comprised three sets of cars, the Impuls I, II and III.
- The Impuls was based on the Opel Kadett and was powered by a 16 KW DC electric motor. It was powered by Ni-Cd batteries with liquid electrolyte and it could do a top speed of 100 Km/h till the batteries ran out of juice in 80 Kms.
- The Impuls II came out after a year and was based on the Opel Astra Estate. This car was powered by two 3-phase asynchronous motors producing a total output of 61 HP. The car stored energy in 32 Lead-Acid batteries.
- Between 1993 and 1997, Opel conducted long term and large scale trial of electric vehicles using the Impuls III cars when they tested 10 cars for more than 300,000 Kms on the island of Rugen in Germany. All the cars were installed with asynchronous motors for propulsion. Five of these cars were fitted with Ni-Cd batteries and produced 61 HP of power while another five were fitted with sodium/ nickel-chloride batteries producing 57 HP.
In 1992, while the Impuls experiments were on, Opel developed the Opel Twin. This was a hybrid concept where in the car was installed with a 800 cc petrol engine producing 34 HP and set of hub mounted electric motorss which produced 14 HP of power. The petrol engine was available for highway driving while the electric motor came into picture while driving within the cities. The Opel Twin had a unique driving arrangement with the driver sitting ahead in the center and three passengers sitting in the rear.
Opel started experimenting with Hydrogen Fuel Cells also in 2000.
- The first car was HydroGen 1 which was based on the Opel Zafira. The HydroGen1 was powered by a three phase asynchronous motor generating 75 HP and 251 N-m of torque. In addition to the fuel cell supplying power to this car, it was also provided with a buffer battery pack to deal with sudden power peaks.
- 2001 saw the release of a fleet of 20 HydroGen 3 cars for test drives by customers. These cars were powered by 82 HP motors with a top speed of 160 Km/h. A Fuel Cell Marathon was conducted in 2004 when two HydroGen3 cars covered 10,000 km across Europe using electricity generated in the fuel cell and producing only water as emission. At the wheel of a HydroGen3, Grand Prix and Opel DTM driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen also won the 2005 Monte Carlo Rally for cars with alternative propulsion.
- The latest generation of the car is the HydroGen4 powered by a 440 cell fuel cell connected in series. The Hydrogen4 generated 100 HP of continuous power and peak power of 128 HP. These cars demonstrated the suitability of fuel cell powered cars in a German government sponsored trial since 2008.
In 2008 Opel also presented the battery powered Flextreme Concept at the 2007 IAA in Frankfurt. This demonstrated the Voltec extended-range electric propulsion. In 2020 Geneva Motor Show, the Flextreme GT/E Concept, illustrated how this drive concept could also be integrated into a mid-size car.
This concept saw series production in 2011 as the Opel Ampera. The Ampera is a car which can seat four people and can be used for daily use. For distances between 40 to 80 Km it runs on pure electric propulsion using a150 HP electric motor fed from a 16 KW-h Li-ion battery pack. Once the battery discharges below a certain level, an 86 HP petrol engine starts and runs a generator which then starts charging the battery. This arrangement allows the car a range of several hundred kilometers without the need to visit a charging station. The Ampera won the European Car of the Year Award in 2012.
The latest electric car from Opel is the Amper-e which was launched in 2016-17 and has a pure electric range of 423 Km. It can seat five in comfort and has a boot space enough to stow 381 litres of luggage. The Opel Ampera-e is powered by a 204 HP electric motor producing 360 N-m of torque and a 0-50 Km/h time of 3.2 seconds.