Our Vauxhall Ampera has shown that it can return over 100mpg, and that it also works on motorways – so how much does it cost to run, and do the overall financials make economic sense?
The Ampera has an official range of 50 miles on electric power. However the car’s computer will change the range forecast based on your driving. On the European launch of the Ampera in Holland, most journalists achieved around 50 miles on electric power. However in normal, ‘real-life’, driving in the UK, after a recharge the car was showing a range of between 35-37 miles.
If you drive 35 miles between recharges, then it’s possible to drive the car purely on electric power, and each recharge could cost less than £1, based on recharging on a cheap overnight tariff. This would make the car very cheap to run. However there’s no point in buying a car with two powertrains unless you also use the petrol engine for longer journeys.
During our time with the car we covered 1386 miles. We used £147 worth of petrol. At £1.30 per litre, or £5.90 per gallon, that equates to 24.9 gallons. That results in an average of 55.7mpg over four weeks (we enjoyed over 100mpg in week one, then we did a lot of fast motorway driving, which the car isn’t designed for). We would expect the electricity that we used to cost around £30. So £177 for almost 1400 miles represents attractive running costs – and 55.7mpg, which is probably the worst case scenario for an Ampera due to our motorway use, is still pretty good for a petrol car of this size.
You can get a home chargepoint installed for free, similar to our own PodPoint home charger. It’s the recommended approach in terms of safety, and it will be quicker to recharge rather than using a three pin plug – although that is possible as a last resort. Plugging in every night is easy and much more satisfying than visiting petrol stations. But what about recharging if you’re out and about? That’s when it gets more complicated. You need to make sure you have a card for whichever charge point you want to use, and with home or public charging you need to make sure the charge point has got the right connector for your car – there are Type 1 (Ampera and mostly Japanese EVs) and Type 2 connectors (mostly German EVs) . See our separate article about public charging of electric vehicles.
But it’s not just fuel costs where there are savings. There’s no road tax to pay – saving a few hundred pounds per year may only be a small thing financially, but from a psychological point of view, it’s huge.
It’s business users that will really benefit; the Ampera has a Benefit in Kind tax rate of just 5%. And if you regularly drive in London you’ll be saving on the Congestion Charge – possibly around £2,400 per year.
It even gets better – the government pays £5,000 towards a new Ampera. That leaves the purchase price at £30,495 for this model. Many people compare the Ampera to an Astra and they say that the purchase price sounds expensive. However that’s not a fair comparison as the Ampera is two cars in one – an electric car and a petrol car. And depending on how the car is used, there’s the potential for low running costs.
If you use our Car Running Costs Calculator, and compare a Vauxhall Ampera Electron with a Ford Focus 5 Door Hatch 1.6 125 Zetec S Powershift, then the results show, for 12,000 miles per year over 3 years, that the Ampera has running costs of £2,639.11 compared to the £6,769.87 of the Focus. Overall, despite the Ampera’s higher purchase price, the Ampera has a lower whole life running cost figure of £18,478.46 compared to the £19,061.01 of the Focus. These figures – which are for consumers rather than business drivers, and which don’t take any Congestion Charge savings into account – may come as a surprise to many people. The Ampera will look even more financially attractive for business users.
The Ampera does have some downsides. For us, the biggest issue is the dashboard. The centre console is one big piece of plastic, with touch sensitive switches. The switches don’t have a surround, so you’re not sure where the edge of the switch is, but critically, you’re never sure how much pressure to apply to the switch, and in some cases, whether the switch has been activated or not. Also, the switches don’t seem to be arranged logically in any sort of order, and some of the switches have names that don’t make it clear what they’re for.
You’ve also got the fact that the Ampera only has four seats, it has a small bit of stretched fabric for a luggage cover, and of course the brakes don’t have the feel of those in a normal car.
So, overall, would we be able to live with this car in real life? Find out in next week’s final instalment…
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