Motorists looking to go green now have a new mass produced factory model to choose from as General Motors launch the Vauxhall Ampera in the UK.
The new car is certainly different to the two mass produced electric vehicles already on the market in the UK, primarily because it has a petrol engine as well as a battery pack and it is this feature that makes Vauxhall believe their new car will do better than the Nissan Leaf and the Renault Fluence ZE. In all truth the Ampera comes into a market that is lacklustre to say the least. So far just 700 people have taken out motor insurance on the Nissan Leaf and this is the car that won the European Car of the Year in 2011. The Ampera has won the same accolade in 2012 and the producers will be desperately hoping it will prove to be more a success.
The Ampera certainly is a different animal. Many motorists say they are put off buying electric cars because of the restricted range of the vehicles; the Leaf for example has to be recharged after travelling less than 100 miles. While others say the cars are too expensive for what they offer. Well believe it or not the Ampera comes off worse than the Leaf on both counts. It can travel no more than 50 miles without the battery needing a recharge, and starting at an eye watering £30,000, is more costly than the Leaf. So why are Vauxhall so certain they will sell over 2,000 this year? Unlike all the other electric cars on the market the Ampera is an extended range car. It has a 1.4 petrol engine alongside the battery unit and when the battery is exhausted the petrol engine fires up and puts enough charge into the battery to keep going until the petrol runs out, possibly after another 300 miles. The transition is seamless and the driver can only tell because a symbol on the dashboard informs him of the changeover.
Vauxhall point out that the car benefits from being an electric car and purchasers will pay no road tax, escape parking charges in many towns and cities, and fleet buyers will also escape company car taxes. They believe the vehicle will appeal to environmentally friendly businesses and private individuals equally, and are buoyant about its prospects.