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Volt's European cousin to be unveiled at Geneva

General Motors is to unveil the production version of its Ampera electric vehicle at the Geneva Motor Show, it confirmed February 17.

The production Opel/Vauxhall Ampera, which is the European version of Chevrolet's Volt vehicle in the US, will be on display for the first time at the show, which is open to the public March 3-13 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Like the Volt, the Ampera uses all-electric power for between the first 40 and 80 kilometers of a journey, before powering up a gas-powered generator to provide a longer range of more than 500 kilometers on a full tank.

It can manage zero to 100 km/h in around nine seconds and tops out at 161 km/h, says Opel, with drivers able to select between Normal, Sport, Mountain and City modes to optimize performance depending on their terrain.

The battery is recharged in about four hours using a standard electrical outlet, far faster than the eight hours it takes its US counterpart - thanks to the higher 230V power supply in Europe.

General Motors says that the Opel Ampera will be the first emission-free, electrically driven car in Europe suitable for everyday driving, although it will be hoping to avoid the controversy that dogged the early days of the Volt's US media launch.

At that time, some commentators made unfavorable comparisons with all-electric competitors such as the Nissan Leaf when it was revealed that in some circumstances, the Volt's gasoline engine directly contributes to the drive, making it more of a hybrid than an electric vehicle.

That doesn't seem to have made much of an impression on the auto industry, which has showered the Volt with praise and handed it prestigious car prizes such as North American Car of the Year and Green Car of the Year in recent months.

Now, the Ampera will challenge the Leaf and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV on European roads too and it looks like the €42,900 vehicle is already off to a good start - Opel says it's had over 1,000 preorders.

The Geneva Motor Show is open to the public March 3-13 in Geneva, Switzerland.