Nov 29, 2012
Rüsselsheim. The first frosty nights are already behind us, snow has fallen in some regions. It is high time for drivers to prepare themselves for winter weather and road conditions. This is no problem for Opel vehicles: modern technologies and assistance systems including adaptive all-wheel drive, the AFL+ adaptive forward lighting system, heated steering wheel and cabin heating ensure that the driver experiences a safer and more comfortable drive in poor visibility, darkness, ice and snow. So in that sense all the vehicles made by the Rüsselsheim manufacturer are well equipped for the next few months ahead, including of course the electric Opel Ampera – “Car of the Year 2012”.
Electric vehicles are especially put to test by winter weather conditions. Temperature fluctuations can greatly influence battery output. For this reason, the Ampera’s battery pack is temperature-controlled via an advanced liquid cooling system which continually monitors and maintains temperature for optimum performance and durability. Circulating coolant passes through a series of internal cooling fins in the battery modules. In cold weather, the battery is preheated during charging to provide a full power capability. In addition there is a significant comfort bonus: The cabin heating which is electrically powered and comes as standard ensures that the car is always acclimatized for the driver. Thus driver and car can operate independently from the weather and without restrictions.
In icy road conditions, chassis and powertrain technology play a central role. The active on demand all-wheel drive (AWD) is especially effective in ice and snow conditions. It ensures for example that the new sub-compact Mokka SUV can grip wintry road surfaces. In normal conditions such as when travelling on dry road surfaces, all front wheels drive the car, ensuring low fuel consumption. Torque is always seamlessly and automatically shifted and can vary from 100-0 (front: rear) to 50-50, for example in the snow. When traction requires it, the electronically controlled torque transfer device automatically and seamlessly distributes torque between the front and rear axle. It thus optimizes the AWD system according to the prevailing road conditions. The system activates itself automatically in a fraction of a second as soon as there is wheel spin on the front axle, thus providing maximum grip. It also deactivates itself to save fuel when no additional support for the rear wheels is required.
Just as important, especially on wet and slippery roads, is the Electronic Stability Program (ESP®Plus). In the Mokka it includes state-of-the art traction control as standard which decelerates the engine and applies the brakes to wheels to prevent wheel spin.
Dark mornings and early sunsets are part of the daily routine for many commuters during this cold period of the year. When snow and heavy rain fall onto the windshield, good visibility becomes even more important. The latest generation of the Adaptive Forward Lighting system AFL+ which is optionally available for the Mokka and other models comes complete with Bi-xenon headlamps and comprises up to 9 intelligent lighting functions. They include country light, motorway light, town light, pedestrian light, adverse weather light, increased high beam, static bending light, dynamic bending light, daytime running light with LED and High Beam Assist. AFL+ thus increases the safety of all those involved in road traffic and makes driving at night or in adverse weather conditions a more relaxing affair.
An electro-chromatic anti-dazzle rear-view mirror safeguards the driver against being dazzled by traffic that is behind his vehicle. A rain sensor function for the windscreen wipers ensures good visibility to the front. In sub-zero temperatures, electrically-heated wing mirrors provide a clear view to the rear.
For more comfort during cold weather driving, the optionally available heated steering wheel can be ordered by customers. The steering wheel warms hands within one minute. The highlight of the system: when activated, the whole rim of the steering wheel is heated, but heat is distributed more quickly in the main grip areas around the lateral spokes. The well-being of the driver and his co-pilot is further supported by the optional seat heating that is available for all Opel models. Depending on personal heating requirements, the seat shell and the backrests can be heated in several levels. The cabin heating that is available in almost all Opel models offers a comprehensive, care-free package: it can be easily and directly activated by remote control and allows the user to pre-program it with a timer function. Thus the driver will always enter a perfectly acclimatized car. Extra effort and time normally spent on scraping off ice is now no longer necessary and visibility out of the windows always remains high. Neither winter coats nor bulky puffer jackets are needed which would otherwise reduce the effectiveness of the safety belts. The engine benefits from pleasant cabin temperatures thus speeding up cold starts.
Numerous Opel kit options ensure that the drive experience during the coldest time of the year is as pleasant and safe as possible. However, in addition drivers should take great care to personally prepare themselves and their vehicle for the challenges that harsh winter weather poses. For those who have not changed to winter tires yet, it is now high time to do so. Such tires provide better grip and shorten the braking distance, not only in snow but also in low temperatures. And don’t forget: regularly top up the windscreen washer reservoir with anti-freeze. This prevents water pipes and washer nozzles from freezing. This way the view to the front and the rear stays clear, especially in critical situations.
Before the early morning drive, a few minutes should always be set aside. In the case of snow overnight, the car has to be completely cleared of all snow and ice for better personal safety and that of others on the roads. This protects any vehicles at the rear from being hit by stray remains of snow. It also makes sure that one is not “blinded” by snow rests that fall of the roof when brakes are applied suddenly. The driving style should generally be adapted to the prevailing conditions: in other words with more foresight and greater safety distances. Abrupt steering manoeuvers should be avoided when the car is travelling on slippery surfaces. When snow covered roads turn into ice rinks even with winter tires, snow chains become the last resort. The fitting of the chains needs to be well rehearsed in order to avoid for example being stranded at the foot of hill.