Vauxhall’s plug-in hybrid Ampera hits the roads

A prototype of the hybrid car has travelled 370 miles from the Vauxhall headquarters in Russelsheim, Germany to Geneva, Switzerland in time to take its place at the prestigious motor show.

Having been charged for the first time at a newly installed charging station in Germany, the five-door Ampera set off for Geneva in a challenge to prove the reliability of the hybrid system.

The 150bhp electric motor, drawing reserves from a 16kwh lithium-ion battery, can power the car for up to 40 miles. After this, the 1.4-litre petrol engine kicks in to power an electric generator which in turn drives the wheels.

The set-up allows the Ampera to travel distances of up to 300 miles before it needs charging – via a household socket – or topping up with fuel.

Offering low emission driving and due to go into production within a year, the Vauxhall Ampera will offer an alternative to the popular Toyota Prius hybrid.

Rumours the Ampera will be built in the Ellesmere Port plant in Cheshire, where the hugely successful Astra is currently produced, have not been confirmed by Vauxhall.

When it is released, the Ampera is expected to benefit from the £240m government scheme offering discounts of up to £5,000 to customers buying low-CO2 alternatives to traditional cars.