The Ampera – or Chevrolet Volt – is a landmark car. Vauxhall doesn’t like it to be called a hybrid because it is an extended-range electric vehicle. Practically this means that there is no mechanical connection between the petrol engine and the wheels, instead it is always powered by an electric motor.
It is best to think of the Ampera as an electric car without the range anxiety. The electric range is between 25 and 50 miles. Once the battery is depleted the 1.4-litre petrol engine acts as a generator to provide an additional 310 mile range. So you can use the Ampera as your only car, with range never becoming an issue.
The official fuel economy tests don’t work for plug-in hybrids, leading to crazy figures. To get the best out of it you want to maximise the electric usage. If you get 50 electric miles (which you can), CO2 emissions are approximately 69 g/km. However the 310 mile petrol range suggests that you will get around 40 mpg after that.
So CO2 emissions are great in electric mode and not brilliant in petrol mode. In the real world this isn’t a major problem. 50 miles covers the vast majority of most people’s daily needs, so most Ampera owners will recharge every night for £1 and not need the petrol back-up. If you can do this, the Ampera makes a lot of sense.
Practical, very cheap to recharge, sprightly and good-looking, the Ampera allows you to go electric and make long journeys. The electric system has an 8 year/100,000 mile warranty which shows real confidence in the lithium-ion batteries. The no-compromise electric car is here, if you can ignore the purchase price.
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