We’ve already driven the Vauxhall Ampera on many occasions, but when Vauxhall offered us one for four weeks, we were keen to see how an extended-range electric vehicle (E-REV) could fit in our life…
An extended-range electric vehicle is, perhaps not surprisingly, an electric vehicle that has an extended-range – thanks to the car also having a petrol engine. So you can drive the Ampera on pure electric power, or using its petrol engine.
To recharge the battery, you simply plug in the Ampera to an electricity supply – possibly at home, at work, or using one of the increasing number of public recharging points in the UK. The car has an official electric-only range of up to 50 miles. If you need to drive further, then you can use the petrol engine – this gives you an additional range of around 300 miles.
The idea is that you use the car on pure, zero tailpipe emission, electric power for short, local journeys. But you can also do occasional longer journeys due to the petrol engine.
Many people refer to the Ampera as a plug-in hybrid. However, although the two concepts have similarities, an E-REV is actually quite different. A plug-in hybrid is essentially a normal petrol or diesel-engined car with a plug-in hybrid capability. So you drive on the petrol or diesel engine most of the time, with some of the time on electric power.
The Ampera is an electric car at (virtually) all times. So even when the petrol engine is working, the engine does not drive the wheels directly as in a plug-in hybrid – it acts as a generator for the electric motor. This means that when you drive on petrol power, the engine – or generator – is generally working within a fairly confined, and optimum, rev range. Whereas a plug-in hybrid operates on its petrol or diesel engine and so has the normal rev characteristics that you would expect of an internal combustion engine.
Anyway, enough of the technical talk. The key thing is, after a week with the Ampera, it has fitted into my life perfectly. Every single journey in the first week – except one – has been on electric power. That means no petrol was used. And of course recharging the car with electricity is much cheaper than refuelling it with petrol – around one-fifth of the cost.
And on the one occasion when the car was driven beyond its electric range I was not happy that I had to use petrol. In fact during the rest of the week I became obsessed with ensuring that the car was always fully charged beforehand to ensure no petrol was used.
All this means that at the end of week one with the Ampera, it has recorded 105mpg. The Ampera’s official economy figure of 235mpg may sound crazy, but if I hadn’t had to drive over 50 miles in one day, then the fuel economy after a week with the car would have been in excess of 235mpg.
Motorists are generally skeptical of new technology, but after one week the Ampera has fitted into my life perfectly – the only issue being that I’ve had to use some petrol.
Unfortunately this situation may get worse in week two…
Model/Engine size: Vauxhall Ampera Electron
Fuel: Petrol-Electric Hybrid
Fuel economy combined: 235.4 mpg* see text
Electricity consumption: 130 – 260 Wh/km (25 – 50 mile range)
Battery pack: 16 kWh (10.4 kWh usable) lithium-ion
Recharge time: 240v, 6 hours or 4 hours with 16 Amps home charger
Fuel economy, extra urban: 217.3 mpg
Fuel economy, urban: 313.9 mpg
CO2 emissions: 27 g/km
Green rating: VED band A
Weight: 1689 Kg
Company car tax liability: 5%
Price: £30,495 (including £5,000 Government grant)
Insurance group: 21 E
Power: 152 bhp
Max speed: 100 mph
0-62mph: 8.7 seconds
Euro 6: No