CAR drove the new Vauxhall Ampera Extended Range Electric Vehicle (E-REV) up the hillclimb at the 2010 Goodwood Festival of Speed – and below you can watch a brief video review of the Ampera as Tim Pollard cruises back down.
It's been ages coming! When can we buy the Vauxhall Ampera?
February 2012 is the current on-sale date; left-hookers go on sale next year. Prices are set to top £30,000, although that could fall if the new UK coalition Government fulfils Labour's pledge to offer £5000 subsidies to early adopters of electric vehicles. The Ampera could be built in the UK in Ellesmere Port in the long run, but at first all European models will be assembled in the US alongside the Chevrolet Volt.
The Vauxhall Ampera is a rebodied Opel Ampera/Chevy Volt, using the same Voltec range-extending hybrid principle and GM's Delta chassis (aka Vauxhall Astra to you and me). Rather than drive the Ampera, the 1.4-litre petrol engine onboard is only ever used to maintain charge of the battery. The car is always driven by its electric motor and Vauxhall claims a 40-mile range on silent EV mode. When the battery is depleted to a certain level, the combustion engine wakes up to maintain charge until you next plug in at home or the office to top up the battery fully.
How long will it take to recharge the Ampera?
Around four hours on the UK 240v network, says Vauxhall. We weren't able to test that at Goodwood, but the full range of the Ampera is impressive: 40 miles on EV mode and a further 310 miles in E-REV mode.
Vauxhall claims 175mpg economy and 40g/km tailpipe emissions on the European cycle, and the Ampera feels brisk enough not to alienate drivers used to petrol or diesel urges. The blurb says 100mph and 9.0sec 0-62mph, and as we set off from the Goodwood start line there's 273lb ft to ensure a smart getaway. It's by no means rapid, however; the weight of those batteries and all the tech weighs heavy around the Ampera's neck.
How does the Vauxhall Ampera drive?
This hybrid drives smoothly and quietly, as you'd expect. For an early prototype costing some £750,000 it feels remarkably ready, with no real glitches to notice. The brakes have a strange switch-like action and the chassis is set up to American spec, so the Ampera pitches and wallows heavily as we tackle Lord March's front driveway.
Our brief run up the hill is done wholly on electric charge with no range-extending petrol charge required. The Ampera is a cinch to operate, with only a futuristic dash trim and a novelty gearlever to obstruct. The view out's a bit rubbish when reversing, as we find to our peril when we have to reverse it around the FOS-TECH pavilion after our run.
The Ampera is a very useable family car. There's a decent boot and two individual rear seats which feel tight for tall adults, but over time as the battery tech improves GM hopes to increase space and maybe even add a third seat.