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Separated at birth: The differences between the Chevy Volt and Opel Ampera

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You’re probably already familiar with the Opel Ampera. It’s the Chevrolet Volt’s sleeker, sexier, and more sophisticated brother from another European mother. Up until now, there really hasn’t been all that much separating the Volt and the Ampera — save for some aesthetic differences on the Ampera’s exterior, such as the front end’s angular “boomerang” headlights and obvious Opel branding.

Recently, though, Bradley Hasemeyer and the Translogic crew headed across the pond to Germany to see if the differences between the Volt and Ampera are indeed simply visual. Interestingly, they found one distinction between the two.

While Chevy Volts feature three driving modes: Normal, Sport, and Mountain. German Amperas include a fourth mode: Halten, or “battery hold” mode. Halten mode gives drivers the ability to limit the use of the Ampera’s battery and power itself with the vehicle’s fuel engine. The idea being that fuel economy on highways, like the Autobahn, will yield higher fuel efficiency and battery power can be saved for city driving where fuel economy is typically low.

Even though the Volt doesn’t feature the fourth driving mode, the Ampera’s Halten Mode is similar in some ways to the Volt’s Mountain Mode. The main difference between the two is that while the Volt’s Mountain Mode is in engaged it recharges the battery at 45 percent state of charge, while the Ampera’s Halten Mode does not. Instead, it holds that charge at whatever level it was at when engaged and doesn’t try to recharge the battery.

We’re not entirely sure why Halten Mode was omitted from the Volt, but Hasemeyer guesses government regulations may have played a part. And while the Opel Ampera has been deemed a success in Europe – and is on its way to meeting GM’s sales targets for the year – the Chevy Volt, while critically acclaimed, has struggled with sales in America. Issues regarding battery safety and a seemingly high price tag haven’t helped matters either.

In Europe, GM has already received 7,000 orders for the Ampera in February alone. It took the Volt’s a full year of production before it reached that level, selling 7,671 in 2011.

Unlike its American counterpart, the European Ampera has been basking in the warmth of affection – at least sales wise. So much so, in fact, that the Volt might be developing an unhealthy inferiority complex over its European brother. Could the Ampera’s more stylish design and additional drive mode be the proverbial straw to break the Volt’s back? We doubt it. And besides, it could just be a matter of time before some industrious and tech savvy Volt owner figures out a way to “jailbreak” the Volt and allow us Americans to utilized Halten Mode this side of the Atlantic.

Check out the video below: