History has just been made with the longest journey by an electric car in the UK when a
Vauxhall Ampera made the 170-mile trip from the company HQ at Luton to Ellesmere port
where the Astra is built and where the Ampera may be.
The trip used half the Amperas range, illustrating that the `range-anxiety of electric cars, the fear of running out of power after only a short trip, will be a thing of the past when the Ampera goes on sale 18 months from now.
The Ampera is a hybrid but very different in concept to the current hybrids such as the
Toyota Prius or Honda Civic. Whereas they run mainly on petrol, using the battery for very
limited mileages, the Ampera runs mainly on a battery with a small petrol engine that will cut in to recharge it when needed as the car is moving.
The crucial difference is that whereas current hybrids petrol engines have to run at a
variety of revs and cope with different load demands, from cruising to accelerating up a hill, the petrol engine in the Ampera is divorced from the driving demands so it is able to run constantly at its peak efficiency (around 2,000 rpm) with electric motors providing the power.
The Ampera (or Ampera E-REV for `Extended Range Vehicle to give it the full title) can do
35-40 miles on the battery alone, far in excess of anything you will find in a current hybrid, but with the recharging from the little petrol engine the car can easily cover more than 300 miles in real-world driving conditions on a single tank of fuel.
As yet there is no word on prices and the industry is waiting with baited breath to see if the new government will honour the pledge of the last one to give a subsidy of up to £5,000 for the early-adopters of electric cars like this one.
Pricing will obviously be a key issue but with the Ampera on sale in 2012, the Nissan Leaf on sale from next year and others in the pipeline, the hybrid revolution is about to take a significant step forward.
Perrys is a franchised Vauxhall