The Vauxhall Ampera was launched in early 2012 and was immediately hailed as bringing forth a revolution in motor transport. It was named the European Car of the Year in 2012 but is the hype really justified? Read on to discover if the Ampera is a genuinely useful electric car suitable for the motorway as well as short journeys.
Although it is a hybrid, Vauxhall want people to consider the Ampera to be an extended range electric car. The main power source for this EV is a 148bhp AC synchronous electric friction motor while the battery takes around six hours to charge using a regular domestic socket. The electronic power control module only taps into 65% of the vehicle’s total capacity which is said to increase the operational life of the car. Beneath the Ampera’s bonnet you will find an 85bhp engine which is 1.4 litres and a 71bhp electric motor.
Vauxhall want the Ampera to be a family’s only mode of transport so it is designed to resemble a regular car as much as possible. There is ample space for four adults but not five because of the T-shaped battery. The fit and quality of the car’s materials vary in quality and the centre stack control panel will feel strange to those used to conventional buttons.
There are two seven-inch LCD displays; one on the centre stack and the other where traditional instruments would be. There is an indicator to tell you how much charge is left and once that runs out, you can fall back on the fuel gauge to let you know how much gas you have. You can also benefit from added extras such as a DVD system, sat-nav and Bose sound system depending on the model you choose.
In many ways, the Ampera feels like a regular car when you drive as the gearlever makes the shifts from drive to reverse to neutral like a traditional automatic car. It is an easy vehicle to drive as there are no gears and the lack of noise is really relaxing, especially when driving along country roads. Although it doesn’t match traditional vehicles, it holds its own on the road most of the time.
The Ampera travels 0-62mph in a reasonable 9 seconds while it goes from 50-70mph in 6.2 seconds which is again a decent standard. According to Vauxhall, the Ampera has a potential range of 310 miles because you have a 35 litre tank of fuel on standby once your battery charge is gone while economy is estimated at 235mpg.
As the Ampera has the reserve fuel tank in play and has an impressive overall range, it is very tempting to make the switch from a regular model. It handles most driving conditions relatively well though the ride can never be described as ‘smooth’. Overall, while making the transition to the Ampera is still daunting, it is not quite as big a leap as jumping to an all-electric car.
- Cost: From $49,000 (£32,995)
- Miles Per Gallon Equivalent (MPG): Estimated at 235mpg
- Official Driving Range (Miles): Vauxhall claims 310 miles.
- Standard Charging Time (Hours): 6 hours
- Practicality (Seats & Doors): 5 doors, 4 seats
- Engine Size: 1.4 litres
- Engine Power: 85bhp and 148bhp electric motor.
- Transmission: N/A
- Acceleration (0-62mph): 9 seconds
- Top Speed (mph): 100mph
- NCAP Safety Rating: 5 stars