Opel and E-power: a very long tradition

A stunning E-Opel at the latest Brussels show, with a remarkable logo…

We stood on the latest Brussels Salon eye to eye with not only the latest Opel electric cars like the Corsa-e and Grandland X plug-in hybrid, but also with a stunning looking 1971 Opel Electro GT. Clearly, Opel has been dabbling with electric cars already since five decades. At the presentation on the Brussels show by Opel CEO Michael Lohscheller of the entire Opel range, we asked him why the very photogenic “E-power” Logo on the Opel Electro GT was not used for Opel’s present E-models.  

Opel Electro GT

But this aside, the early electric Opels were more than intriguing we found. So we delve a bit more in their history here…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

It is indeed a very long and interesting story, so we will come back on it several times. It all started back in 1968, when the Kadett B “Stir-Lec” I featured the principle of the “range extender” that would later go into production with the Opel Ampera. The “Stir-Lec” study was powered by 14 lead-acid batteries and the electricity that kept the batteries constantly charged was generated by a rear-mounted Stirling combustion engine.

Only three years later, Georg von Opel, the grandson of the company founder, broke six electric vehicle world records at the wheel of this stunning looking 188 km/h Opel Electro GT powered by two coupled electric motors producing 88 kW/120 hp. Energy was supplied by a 590 kilogramme nickel-cadmium battery pack and at a constant speed of 100 km/h, the car had a range of 44 kilometres.

I have personally sweet memories of the Opel GT. As a student but already dabbling in automotive journalism, I assisted at the presentation of the Opel GT 1900 in Port Grimaux, and was impressed by its agility on the winding roads in the Alpes Maritimes.

Research took a step forward with the Opel Impuls programme during 1990-97. The Impuls I was a Kadett-based vehicle powered by a 16 kW direct-current electric motor using nickelcadmium battery cells with a liquid electrolyte. It had a range of around 80 km and a top speed of 100 km/h. But more about the impuls programme later.

Opel also was keen on developing hydrogen propulsion.

In 2000, Opel’s fuel-cell development took to the streets with the Zafira-bodied HydroGen1. Its hydrogen fuel cell supplied electricity for a three-phase asynchronous motor giving 55 kW/75 hp and 251 Nm of torque. A buffer battery covered power peaks.

Arriving in Lisbon, Avenida da Torre de Belem…

In 2001, a fleet of 20 HydroGen3 models was driven by test customers. Power was increased to 60 kW/82 hp, giving a top speed of 160 km/h. In the 2004 Fuel Cell Marathon, two HydroGen3 vehicles covered nearly 10,000 km across Europe, from Hammerfest in Norway to Lisbon in Portugal. (See photo here above) 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.

A well styled gem… 13 years ago…

But we stumbled also on some surprisingly advanced and stylish E-cars. Indeed, Opel also pursued the development of battery-powered vehicles and presented the innovative Flextreme Concept at the 2007 IAA in Frankfurt, which featured the Voltec extended-range electric propulsion.

A harbinger of the Ampera, but more of that car in a following report.

In the meantime, just be surprised at the stunning elegance of the Flextreme…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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