Opel AmperaEnlarge Photo
The Chevrolet Volt’s European cousin, the Opel Ampera, has been picked as the winner in the annual European Car of the Year awards, edging out other strong candidates such as the Volkswagen up! and Ford Focus.
The latest title sees the Volt’s number of international awards continue to grow, with the car previously taking the 2011 North American Car of the Year title as well as the 2011 Green Car of the Year title back on its home turf.
Announced this week at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, the Opel Ampera was awarded with 330 points by judges presiding over the 2012 European Car of the Year awards program, while the up! came in second with 281 points and the Focus in third with 256 points.
The voting process was presided over by a panel of 59 judges representing 23 European countries and mostly made up of journalists and other members of the auto industry. This time ‘round just 35 candidates were eligible for the awards. To be eligible, all of the contenders had to be new vehicles available now or before year’s end in five or more European markets. They also each had to have the prospect of at least 5,000 yearly sales.
The judges noted that the Ampera, along with the Volt, was the first example of a range-extended electric car. The concept, addressed to the fears of potential customers in front of an incipient recharging net of electricity for vehicles, implies energy generated on board, to continue the journey, once exhausted the rechargeable batteries.
In the case of the Ampera and Volt, that means a 1.4 gasoline engine working in semi-stationary regime. The balance between electric drive range and combustion-engine help takes in account the usually short daily driving distances of the average person, a figure between 30 and 40 miles.
Viability of such approach, in a time when recharging possibilities on the road are limited, was positively assessed by the judges, who see it as better suited to consumers’ needs than the conventional electric car.
The judges also noted the pace at which engineers addressed the recent heat control problems afflicting the batteries in Volts in the U.S., explaining that the issue was thoroughly addressed and that the cars now offer better protection of the batteries and more efficient cooling systems.
Note, the Ampera beat out a worthy field that included the likes of the Audi A6, Lexus GS 350, Mercedes-Benz M Class and even the Porsche 911, the winner of Motor Authority's own 2012 Best Car To Buy competition.
Last year for the European competition we saw the all-electric Nissan Leaf take top honors from a field of no less than 41 contenders.
Hit the next page to view the full list of 35 contenders in this year's competition.