Focus on the Vauxhall Ampera

The Vauxhall Ampera has been in the news for over a year now, ever since Vauxhall announced it would be building an electric car capable of travelling 350 miles on a single charge.

Of course, we’re being misleading there, because the Ampera also boasts a small petrol engine on board. However, unlike a conventional hybrid car, the engine is used to recharge the battery instead of drive the wheels, meaning even with the engine running the car is always powered by an electric motor.

The result is CO2 emissions that are lower than a conventional hybrid, the ability to drive 50 miles in purely electric mode (at the beginning or end of a journey) and a range that is more than three times that of the purely electric Nissan Leaf.

It also means it can be charged electrically, but if you’re in a rush, it can also be filled at the petrol pump like a normal car, effectively offering the best of both worlds.

But why are we focusing on the Vauxhall Ampera now? It is due to arrive in the UK in 2012, but its sister car, the almost-identical Chevrolet Volt has been on sale in the US since the beginning of the year.

Test drives amongst journalists are currently taking place, and the first reviews of the Ampera will be hitting the news over the course of the next week.

The Vauxhall Ampera is known as an extended-range electric vehicle (E-REV) and it could signal the answer to many, if not all, issues associated with electric car ownership.

With this in mind, here is some of the key information about the all-new Vauxhall Ampera.

Why should I buy a Vauxhall Ampera?

We’ve already mentioned the clever electric powertrain behind the Ampera, and the way the petrol engine powers the battery in a unique way.

This has the one major advantage of ensuring the car can travel 350 miles on one tank of fuel, and if you’re running low, simply top up the petrol engine! Vauxhall has demonstrated its range by driving an Ampera from Germany to Geneva in March to appear at the Geneva Motor Show, where we had a look at the finished model.

The engine is a 1.4-litre, 75bhp unit, and this is enough to provide plenty of power whilst emitting just 40g/km of CO2 – much lower than even conventional hybrids.

And here is where the Ampera’s second big plus point lies. The Ampera looks like a normal car – an often overlooked reason why electric car take-up is so low – with a coupe-like body and distinctive, boomerang-shaped headlamps also used on the new Zafira Tourer MPV.

Inside, the Ampera feels upmarket and comfortable, with high quality upholstery and well-put-together dashboard. Only the information screen gives a hint at the electric powertrain underneath, with indicators for range, battery charge and other information a driver may need.

The Ampera is, to all intents and purposes, a normal hatchback, with plenty of space in the back and boot for passengers and luggage respectively. Throw in the low running costs, eco-friendly emissions and upmarket feel and there is nothing to dislike about the Ampera.

How much does it cost?

Much of people’s hesitancy when looking at the Ampera will come from the price, which starts upwards of £30,000. However, with the help of the government’s plug-in car grant, this falls to a much more affordable £25,000.

While this may be more than petrol and diesel hatchbacks, it isn’t far off, and comes with lower running costs, London congestion charge exemption and zero Vehicle Excise Duty (VED).