Opel Ampera plug-in hybrid is among the green stars of the upcoming Geneva auto show.
By Nick Kurczewski, Contributor
When the Geneva auto show opens its doors to the media March 3, the exhibition halls will be jammed with a wider range of smaller, smarter and more fuel-efficient cars than ever before.
Green vehicles were once a sideshow, with headline-grabbing debuts of outrageous supercars and luxury sedans in the main ring at Geneva. But like easy credit and cheap gasoline, those days are gone.
Intelligently designed, fuel-efficient, low-emission vehicles are now the key to survival for the world's car manufacturers.
Even high-end manufacturers like Bentley Motors are getting in on the act. Rather than its usual lineup of sport-tuned touring cars that gulp gasoline the way a band of rugby fans down lager at a pre-game fest, the English luxury brand will unveil a bio-fueled concept -- albeit one with more than 600 horsepower.
Other stars of the show will include the Opel Ampera, the European version of the Chevrolet Volt; Mitsubishi's i-MiEV Sport Air, an electric sports car concept; and the shape-shifting Rinspeed iChange electric vehicle.
Green Car Advisor offers an advance look at these and other soon-to-be-unveiled eco-stars of the Geneva show.
As General Motor's European subsidiary, it makes sense that Opel would get a version of Chevrolet's much-hyped Volt hybrid.
Luckily for Opel, the Ampera also seems to have gotten the good looks in the GM family tree. While the Volt has been criticized for a somewhat bland exterior, the Ampera has a more aggressive and modern design that better lives up to the promise of the state-of-the-art drivetrain.
Like the Chevrolet Volt, the Ampera will be capable of running up to 40 miles on electric power alone, before switching to a small internal combustion engine that recharges the battery pack.
Opel says that the Ampera's lithium-ion battery pack can be charged from a standard European 230-volt outlet.
The Volt slated to arrive in U.S. showrooms near the end of next year, so expect the Ampera to make its European debut in 2011.
Mitsubishi will debut a European version of the i-MiEV electric car it expects to launch in Japan later this year. Both are based on the Japanese company's tiny "i" city car.
The i-MiEV uses a 47-kilowatt (62-horsepower) electric motor that draws power from a 330-volt lithium ion battery pack. Range is estimated at 100 miles.
The European model will be slightly wider than the Japanese model, and perhaps a bit more powerful -- to cope with European safety standards and higher speed limits.
A U.S. version of the i-MiEV, if we get one -- and we think we will -- is likely to be based on the Euro model.
A sport version of the i-MiEV will also break cover in Geneva.
Very little is known about the concept, called the Sport Air, though we expect it likely will be a closer-to-production version of the huggable-cute i-MiEV Sport concept seen at the Tokyo auto show in 2007.
Not every important green car in Geneva will have an electric motor or hybrid power plant under its hood.
At first glance, the Chevrolet Spark looks like another sharply styled little Euro-hatch.
That's the point.
Frugal and attractive small cars like the Spark are key to the survival of General Motors -- and to weaning many American car buyers from opting for the super-size option in their dealers' showrooms.
The five-door Spark hatchback first appeared as the Beat concept car during the New York auto show in 2007.
The production version looks almost identical to that concept. When it goes on sale in Europe in early 2010, the Spark will feature a choice of economical 1.0- and 1.2-liter 16-valve engines.
U.S. sales are to follow in 2011.
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Tags: Auto Shows, Bentley, Biofuels, Chevrolet, Diesel, Ethanol, Flex-Fuel, General Motors, Green Vehicles, Hybrid, MINI, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Plug-ins and Electric, Tata, Green Cars at Geneva Auto Show
2009 Geneva Auto Show: A Lot of Green for Snowy Swiss Venue was originally published by Green Car Advisor. Read the full story by clicking here.