Vauxhall Ampera - Any Colour but Green!

Sunday 17th July, 2011
It's that time of year again where many different journalists, representing even more different publications, attend the overseas launch of a new "eco" car and all somehow end up writing up the same facts, from the same press briefing, alongside photos from the same USB stick. This time, it was the exciting launch of the Vauxhall Ampera.

I wasn't there myself, I had my Ampera first drive at the Michelin Challenge Bibendum event in May, but this time attendees were apparently told amazing facts like under 40g/km of CO2, charging time of under 4 hours and some rather insane combined fuel economy figure of more than 176mpg. Naturally, as I did with the Nissan Leaf, I've done a few sums of my own.
ampera.jpg

It would seem the Vauxhall Ampera is being marketed as one of these wonderful new electric eco cars. Sold in the US as the Chevrolet Volt, it's the first of a new type of vehicle known as the Extended Range Electric Vehicle or E-REV - notice how they split of the E to make it look that little bit more eco? I expect on some marketing leaflet somewhere, they'll make that first E green and lower case, just to make it even cooler. It will probably go on to win a load of so called "Green Car Awards" but I digress.

The Background


For the most part, the Ampera is just another electric car with around 400lbs of batteries scattered around what might normally be the transmission tunnel of the car. If you're sat in the back, they disguise this by removing the middle seat and replacing with a cup holder unit. The obvious disadvantage is that you can only seat 4 people but it does mean very few compromises in other areas of the car. Essentially it looks a lot like a normal car, it drives a lot like a normal car and has the space of a normal car. Of course, there's a reason for that - it's no better than a normal car - just because somebody tells you something is low emission or eco doesn't actually mean that it is.
amperarear.jpg
The main issue with EVs is that they usually have a rather limited range - such as our old friend the Nissan LEAF which, despite being sold for £30,990, will still only go around 100 miles on a full charge. Nissan get around this limitation at events where charging facilities aren't available by carrying around a Honda portable generator like this one to create the electricity they need from unleaded petrol - and that's basically how an E-REV works. Vauxhall drop a 1.4litre engine under the bonnet and, as the batteries run down, the engine kicks in to charge them back up - except they don't call it an engine, they refer to it as a "petrol-fuelled electric generator" to try and focus attention to the fact that the car is only powered by the batteries and not by the engine. Well, not usually anyway, unless you happen to run out of batteries whilst driving uphill - as they can't quite charge the batteries fast enough, they need to temporarily power the wheels directly like a normal car. Of course, most people call a car that will run on batteries until they're flat and then start the engine a hybrid...but we're supposed to call this one an E-REV because it's different, ok?

The Analysis


Like most EV manufacturers, Vauxhall like to claim that the car will create zero emissions when running on battery alone - carefully ignoring how that charge actually got there. Citing the usual kind of "80% of journeys are less than 30 miles" style statistics, they claim the Ampera "can drive 50 miles on electricity alone, with zero tailpipe emissions" - which I'm sure it can, but does it? In reality, I understand the battery management system will actually only let the batteries get down to 20% before the engine starts - allowing only a 40 mile drive before the exhaust pipe starts throwing emissions out and in "mountain mode", the battery even tries to stay above 40% decreasing that range further still.

But let's look at these 50 "emission free" miles a little closer. If you remember, on the "zero emissions" Nissan LEAF, we calculated a figure of around 81g/km CO2 based on average National Grid emissions. So how does the Ampera compare? Well, pretty badly really.

The LEAF will go around 100 miles on a full charge of its 24kWh of batteries. The Ampera, however, will only do just 50 miles (assuming that engine doesn't kick in) on 16kWh of batteries. Yes, 75% of the batteries, 50% of the range. Naturally this affects the emissions it creates rather significantly. Using my best buddy the NEF CO2 calculator, we can work out that 16kWh of electricity (assuming no additional losses whilst charging) will emit 9kg of CO2, based on average UK Grid emissions. So 9kg for 50 miles = 180g per mile or, if we divide by 1.6, 112.5g/km CO2.

113g/km...for an eco car? That's not band A, not even B, we should actually be into VED band C territory here. Proof, if any were needed, that we should take power station CO2 into account for electric vehicles. As it is, this will likely be treated as a "green" car and therefore exempt from car tax, exempt from the London Congestion Charge and qualify for significant advantages over others as a company car. Sure it'll be cheap, but if you want a low emission electric car...maybe you should go and ask Renault about the Fluence.

Recharging


According to Vauxhall, "recharging is easy: the lithium ion battery can be charged from a 230V socket in under 4 hours." This too, has me rather curious. You see, the power socket in your home will deliver a maximum power of 3kW but, for safety, appliances usually limit this to around 2.2kWh. Even if it did pull the full 3kW, we have to deliver 16kWh to fully charge the batteries. It doesn't take Isaac Newton's maths talent to figure out that this equates to 5hrs 20mins - at the more likely 2.2kW, this extends to over 7 hours - rather longer than the claimed less than 4.

Even if you go as far as fitting a £1000 16 Amp EVSE (special socket) on your house, and it delivers a full 230V at 16 Amps, it's still going to take 4 hours 20 mins so a FULL charge in under 4 hours is just never, ever, going to happen.

But of course, you'll never need that FULL charge because that battery management system will never let the battery charge fall below 20%. So you'll only likely ever need a maximum of 12kWh...possibly less. Delivering this charge at 3kW an hour looks rather more possible in 4 hours, certainly so with an EVSE, but surely this just confirms that the battery only range is actually 40 miles not 50? Either it can use it for range, and you'll need to put it back in from the power socket in over 4 hours, or you can't use it for battery only range and the quoted figure should be less. You can't have it both ways.

Fuel Economy


According to the manufacturer, "With the Vauxhall Ampera you can go up to 50 miles on its battery alone and up to another 310 miles extended range with the 1.4 litre (82 HP) petrol-fuelled electric generator." They further go on to claim "the combination of battery power and extended range technology deliver up to 175 miles per gallon of fuel whilst emitting less than 40g/km of CO2".

Some bold claims there, the latter based on the official ECE R101 Test Cycle. Of course, should this be true, something doesn't really add up. If it really can do 175 miles on one gallon of fuel, and has a petrol range of 310 miles, then surely it only needs a 2 gallon (9 litre) fuel tank? Then why does it in fact need a whopping 35 litres to achieve this?

In fact, assuming the first 50 of the 175 miles were electric only, this would imply that one gallon of fuel actually only got the car 125 miles. Still an impressive claim though, if it were possible. As it is, Vauxhall are claiming a max range of 310miles on 30-35 litres of unleaded (Vauxhall don't seem to publish the fuel tank size) - which equates to just 40-45mpg, rather less. Petrol cars with this kind of fuel economy usually fall around the 160-170g/km CO2 level (VED Band G/H) so I look forward to seeing official emissions figures for this car.

In the US, the EPA measured the Chevrolet Volt (basically the same car with different styling) at just 37mpg in petrol-only mode which, with UK gallons being 20% larger, makes my theory about right.

Summary


Ultimately, once you blow away the eco smoke screen, this car offers the world nothing over a normal car. It tries, but fails, to be an efficient electric car yet has a carbon footprint in EV mode that is around 30% higher than those already on the market. When the batteries run out, a petrol engine kicks in to extend the range but, as it has 180kg of batteries and an electric motor to haul around too, this isn't particularly efficient either.

I used to argue, having studied the drive-train, that this car should be called a hybrid, not an E-REV. But applying the word hybrid to a model generally means that the vehicle might be more efficient and have some of the lowest emissions in its class - with an apparent best case scenario of around 45mpg and a carbon footprint for each journey that will likely never fall below 112g/km CO2, neither of these apply here.

To top it all, they want to charge £33,995 for one which is about £10k more than a similar sized Toyota Prius which easily achieves a real world 60mpg and an official rating of 89g/km. Remind me again why a recession hit Government is offering £5000 of tax payer's money to discount cars like this?

  1. 1) Ralph Goodson Said: (18/07/2011 16:46:33 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Vauxhall Ampera - Any Colour but Green!

    Three hours, four hours, five hours.... who cares, surely most people will recharge it overnight, ready for the following day's commute.

    I must say I don’t really care whether it is extremely green, I just want to find a way of avoiding a second mortgage to pay for fuel.

    Be sure of one thing, the price at the pump will never go down significantly any more.

    The Ampera seems to me to provide a solution, a prestige, sporty car that can recharged for £1.50 and take me up to 60 miles.

    Personally, any comparisons to the Nissan Leaf are a waste of time because the Leaf looks like something my gran would drive and I wouldn’t be seen dead in one.

    As for the Prius, I have a friend who drives one like a snail and never achieves better than about 50 mpg in it. On top of that, it was made in and shipped from Japan, not very green methinks.

    OK, so the Ampera does not have all the answers yet, but it is the most acceptable solution so far for me and at least it will be made in Ellesmere Port.

  2. 2) Jeremy Said: (18/07/2011 22:08:45 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Vauxhall Ampera - Any Colour but Green!

    Ben, old chap, it looks like your maths is all over the shop on this one. In every case you make assumptions to ensure the Ampera looks as bad as possible.

    For instance, on the one hand you take the 50 mile range claim and combine it with the fact that the car will never allow the charge to drop below 20 per cent to jump to the conclusion that it will actually only do 40 miles. But hang on, maybe it does 50 miles on 80 per cent of the charge.

    Then, bizarrely, you use the full 16kWh battery capacity to calculate the CO2 emissions even though the one thing we know is that it won't be allowed to drop below 20 per cent and thus at most 12kWh will be used.

    You're having both ways. It won't do! ;)

  3. 3) James Hind Said: (19/07/2011 09:21:45 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Vauxhall Ampera - Any Colour but Green!

    The fact it only has 4 seats is a big limitation. If manufacturers want to show that an EV can be an everyday vehicle then they have to make them as practical as possible in the most basic ways.

    I'd imagine that alone will put off a fair few people from buying one.

  4. 4) John Said: (19/07/2011 19:16:43 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Vauxhall Ampera - Any Colour but Green!

    A Prius isn't able to operate in electric-only mode, whereas for typical short-range commutes the Ampera can have zero-tailpipe emissions. You can bet that the next generation Prius will operate in a similar mode to the Ampera (Toyota developed the plugin Prius in response to programmes like this, and every other manufacturer is heading down the same route). Think of this as the new hybrid.

    I don't think that comparing National Grid emissions is really fair - who's calculated the emissions from petrol/diesel extraction, refining and distribution? In any case, it's easier for emissions to be reduced at a grid level, through carbon capture and renewable sources, so I think this is definitely the future. Maybe the first generations won't be perfect, but it's not a bad starting point.

  5. 5) Ian Said: (21/07/2011 08:41:08 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Vauxhall Ampera - Any Colour but Green!

    If you continue to choose the metrics with which to judge electric and R-EEV cars that make them look worst then the Great British car buying public will be mislead into buying a car which is not the best solution for their wallet or the planet.

    The truth is the average UK journey is 15-20 miles so the Ampera and its stablemates would be a suitable choice to deliver low cost and low tailpipe emission solution.

    Sure, if your journey is regularly 300+ miles (as mine is) then a diesel car is the best answer as they can deliver the best long range fuel economy at speeds. e.g. A mondeo diesel will deliver 45mpg at 80mph whereas a Prius only 40mpg for the same speed.

    There are still a lot of open questions regarding total vehicle life (Well to Wheel) efficiency for Electric vs Internal Combustion power but we are only 10 years into the Electrification development cycle not 100 years as with the combusiton engine.

    IMHO the future for EVs and R-E EV is bright the UK consumer just needs to be well informed so they can understand the real choices avilable to them.

  6. 6) Phil Huff Said: (21/07/2011 10:22:26 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Vauxhall Ampera - Any Colour but Green!

    An interesting piece. My own view is that plug-in hybrids such as the Volt are a mid-term solution, and for most people more interested in their wallet than the CO2 emissions, they work well.

    Let's assume you charge the Volt overnight, as I'd assume most will, then the hours it takes to take is irrelevant. Then, if you drive 45 miles between charges, meaning that even on your figures the owner would be doing 15 miles with the engine assist, you’ll be getting 117 mpg. Even stretching that to a 40 mile commute, so 80 miles a day, you'll still be looking at an average of 63 mpg. By anybody's standards, that's bloody good. Even adding in the 45p (Economy 7) it'll take me to charge and converting that to 0.43 litres of petrol, that still means it'll return 93 mpg and 58 mpg.

    My time in a latest gen Prius saw me returning 50 mpg, almost without fail (apart from one day where I managed to get it down to 21 mpg!) and there's an awful lot of similar sized cars out there that will return that kind of figure for the same money. For anything over, say, 50 miles a day, a hybrid or even plug-in hybrid doesn't make sense.

    For shorter, or 'normal', journeys, the Volt seems to make sense. For me personally, it'll theoretically return an astonishing equivalent of 317 mpg! The advent of plug-in hybrids, such as the forthcoming Prius and Volvo cars, should hopefully improve that still further.

    Yes, it still doesn't get rid of CO2 emissions, but it's another step in the right direction.

  7. 7) Ben Rose Said: (21/07/2011 16:16:42 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Vauxhall Ampera - Any Colour but Green!

    @1 Ralph

    Sure, the charging time may not be critical for those who are going to charge it overnight but if you expect to get a 50% charge whilst parked at the shops for a couple of hours, this may well not be the case and you'll be burning petrol to get home.

    I agree the LEAF may look a bit like a Micra on steroids but looks are very subjective and criticising the LEAF just for that is rather shallow. Besides, there are great looking electric cars like the Renault Fluence and ZoE on the way which have a considerably smaller CO2 footprint than the Ampera.

    50mpg would be typical in a 2nd gen Prius. In the current 3rd Gen model, 60mpg is easily achievable with the right driving technique - it's not all about driving slowly, pulse and glide is the most efficient. My father in-law average over 70mpg in the first 5k miles or so in his 3rd gen.

    The Prius is indeed made and shipped from Japan with a significant carbon footprint, so is the LEAF. The Ampera is made in North America alongside the Chevy Volt and also shipped long distance. The only truly eco production car built in the UK right now, is the Toyota Auris Hybrid which is built in Derby and has pretty much the same efficiency as the Prius, considerably lower than my estimate for the Ampera. Nissan plan to assemble the LEAF in the UK from 2013. No decision has been made on the Ampera yet, as far as I know, but I gather it will be 2015 or later if they do choose to build it here. It's likely that the first gen Ampera will never be built here and, if they do, I expect it would be a 2nd gen model or at least a refresh - being 3 years old by then.

    Of course the recent earthquakes proved that, wherever a car is assembled geographically, many of the parts are sourced in Japan anyway.

  8. 8) Ben Rose Said: (21/07/2011 16:32:02 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Vauxhall Ampera - Any Colour but Green!

    @2 Jeremy

    I don't normally allow comments from false email addresses, unless I want to show up cowardly PRs, but I'll allow this one as you raise a valid point.

    No assumptions, just taking the numbers as they are supplied to me. I'm not assuming it's a 16kWh battery, that's what is fitted. I'm not assuming a mains supply is rated at 3kW, it's just a fact. It's all just how it is. 50 miles range from the 15kWh battery is also what we are told. So I make the CO2 calculation based on the official battery size and the official quoted range - no assumptions.

    I'm happy to use any other official number, if there are any, but it seems that most people on the press launch managed around 45 miles so I'm confident my numbers are OK based on official stats.

  9. 9) Ben Rose Said: (21/07/2011 16:38:04 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Vauxhall Ampera - Any Colour but Green!

    @4 John,

    A Prius has always been able to operate in electric-only mode, albeit for a much shorter distance.

    Only looking at tailpipe emissions is rather myopic and not at all what this site is about.

    It isn't "the new hybrid" it's a low efficency EV in the same car as a low efficiency petrol car. That's rather different to a hybrid which uses electricity from batteries to improve the efficiency of the petrol engine.

    Comparing based on National Grid emissions is entirely fair. Whilst the grid is dirty and polluting, so will be the EVs connected to it. I refer to all this as "stage one" emissions and it's explained more here { Link }

    I just don't see the point in putting cars on our roads for 10-15yrs of life that actually have a larger carbon footprint than existing models.

  10. 10) Ben Rose Said: (21/07/2011 16:52:24 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Vauxhall Ampera - Any Colour but Green!

    @5 Ian,

    I'm not choosing metrics that make these cars look the worst, I'm simply presenting the stats in a way that make them fairly comparable with others.

    A headline figure of "up to 175 miles per gallon of fuel" is rather misleading when the car wouldn't even go half that distance on just a gallon of fuel. Usually when we talk about miles per gallon, we talk about miles from just the fuel but around 50 of these miles come from electricity which isn't factored in. It's just feels a bit wrong.

    Sure, I'm not pointing people to the cheapest options...I'm pointing them to the greenest options. Currently this vehicle doesn't appear to be one of them.

    I'm not arguing about the cost, although I question some reports that it can be fully charged for less than a pound, I'm simply pointing it out that environmental emissions don't end at the tailpipe.

    I'm quite sure a current model Prius can exceed the 40mpg you claim at 80mph but, as it's illegal and I've never personally driven one, I'm not going to force that point.

    As I linked in the response above, I'm talking "stage one" emissions here and the Mondeo won't even touch the Prius in this area, neither will the Ampera. I think you'll find that electric cars have been around rather longer than 10 years and have made very little progress. The GM EV1, released in 1996, had a range as good as today's Nissan Leaf.

    We're certainly agreed that the UK informer needs to be well informed and claims of 175mpg and 40g/km of CO2 aren't part of that.

  11. 11) Ben Rose Said: (21/07/2011 17:11:23 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Vauxhall Ampera - Any Colour but Green!

    @6 Phil,

    The Volt/Ampera is not a plug-in hybrid. It's very different. A hybrid chooses the most efficient power source based on the situation. It can be just electric, just petrol engine, or a combination of both. An E-REV tries to use electric propulsion 100% of the time, regardless of an inefficiency this may cause. When things become desperate, up a steep hill with low charge, it engages the petrol engine directly to bypass the apparent losses of converting to electricity first. There's enough power in the engine to get up the hill, but it can't get there by converting the power to electricity first.

    You are spot on when you say they are for people interested more in their wallet than CO2, but the buy in costs are very high and I doubt you'd break even in 8 years even if you never did a single mile in petrol mode and only ever used "cheap" electric. I haven't added the Ampera to this spreadsheet yet { Link } but it's clear to see that it costs more that the LEAF and manages less miles per kWh of electricity, so will cost more to run in electric mode.

    "if you drive 45 miles between charges, meaning that even on your figures the owner would be doing 15 miles with the engine assist, you’ll be getting 117 mpg"

    You've lost me, this car will apparently do 50 miles on battery alone, so no engine use at all. You'll be using no gallons so you'll have "infinity mpg" - I doubt anybody could beat that!

    "Even stretching that to a 40 mile commute, so 80 miles a day, you'll still be looking at an average of 63 mpg"

    Umm, no. You're completely ignoring the electricity used, that's just not right. If you drove a car to a destination, managed 50mpg and then took it home on a trailer would you count it as 100mpg for the journey? I don't think that would be entirely right. The mpg stat should only count the miles that come from the gallons of fuel.

    "Even adding in the 45p (Economy 7) it'll take me to charge"

    Umm, no. You should read my Nissan LEAF piece on economy 7 for more info. { Link } If you switch to Economy 7, all your other electricity usage in the day time goes up in price significantly. You have to add it all in.

    "and converting that to 0.43 litres of petrol"

    You can't covert electricity prices to litres of petrol, that's just purely insane!

    My time in a latest gen Prius saw me returning 50 mpg...and there's an awful lot of similar sized cars out there that will return that kind of figure for the same money"

    There are some that may return it for less money but my focus here is on emissions, not just fuel economy.

    "For anything over, say, 50 miles a day, a hybrid or even plug-in hybrid doesn't make sense."

    It does if you care about emissions, congestion charge, taxation etc.

    "For shorter, or 'normal', journeys, the Volt seems to make sense. For me personally, it'll theoretically return an astonishing equivalent of 317 mpg!"

    No, it won't. It may burn the same amount of petrol as 317mpg, but loads of coal or natural gas will be burned in the power station to produce that. This is my point.

    "Yes, it still doesn't get rid of CO2 emissions, but it's another step in the right direction."

    If it creates MORE CO2 for the same journey, it's a step in the opposite direction.

    I think you've perhaps missed my entire point here, but thanks for contributing.

  12. 12) Michael Thwaite Said: (21/07/2011 22:01:25 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Vauxhall Ampera - Any Colour but Green!

    Ben,

    Once again you're comparing apples to rotten fruit but not looking at just how rotten they are!

    113g/km emissions from a car is fantastic! There is no oil fueled car that can come anywhere near that figure. 300g/km is about as low as they go. You must consider where the petrol comes from if you are to compare the full production cycle.

    Please refer to { Link } and re-calculate the numbers before someone makes a mistake - lives are at risk here.

  13. 13) Ben Rose Said: (21/07/2011 22:14:39 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Vauxhall Ampera - Any Colour but Green!

    Michael,

    Thanks for the input. I'm talking about what I call "stage one" emissions. I've defined it here -> { Link }

    113g/km of stage one CO2 emissions isn't good at all, and isn't even in the lowest 2 tax brackets here in the UK.

  14. 14) Phil Huff Said: (21/07/2011 22:39:59 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Vauxhall Ampera - Any Colour but Green!

    Hi Ben,

    "The Volt/Ampera is not a plug-in hybrid. It's very different."

    I know. I was keeping it simple; it plugs in, it uses petrol. I do understand the technology.

    "You've lost me, this car will apparently do 50 miles on battery alone, so no engine use at all. You'll be using no gallons so you'll have "infinity mpg" - I doubt anybody could beat that!"

    I'm being deliberately pessimistic. The range is 50 miles, but few would seriously expect to get that, including you...

    "Umm, no. You're completely ignoring the electricity used, that's just not right. If you drove a car to a destination, managed 50mpg and then took it home on a trailer would you count it as 100mpg for the journey?"

    I'm not ignoring the electricity at all. I've taken the cost of the electricity and converted that to fuel - it'll still cost me whether it's petrol, electricity or whatever, so it goes in the calculations.

    "If you switch to Economy 7, all your other electricity usage in the day time goes up in price significantly. You have to add it all in."

    I've added it in. I'm already on Economy 7, it works for my circumstances, so there'll be no change for me personally. Why assume I'm not on Eco 7?

    "You can't covert electricity prices to litres of petrol, that's just purely insane!"

    I disagree. I'm looking at money, not CO2 or similar. If it costs me £10 to charge the car up, I've got to take that in to account. I can't say it's 44mpg plus £10, as that makes no sense either. Converting electricity *costs* to a fuel equivalent allows the financials to be calculated on a like for like basis against other cars.

    "It does if you care about emissions, congestion charge, taxation etc."

    I was basing it all on financials, as I suggested in my opening line. I believe the majority of people will still look at their wallet first, and emissions second.

    "If it creates MORE CO2 for the same journey, it's a step in the opposite direction."

    The point about my 'step in the right direction' comment is that this is still a very young technology; there's plenty more to come (and I'm excited about Volvo's plans) and plenty of new technologies not yet developed. The Volt is another step, sideways perhaps, that introduces another technology, but we've got to walk this path to get to the best end result. Not every new development will be a hit; the original Prius was truly dreadful, especially at manufacturing stage, but the public bought in to it. They've got to continue buying in to it. When the public start buying on CO2, the financials above won't matter. We're not there yet.

    "I think you've perhaps missed my entire point here, but thanks for contributing."

    Now there's a put down! Not missed it all Ben, just looking from a different perspective.

  15. 15) Ben Rose Said: (21/07/2011 23:05:49 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Vauxhall Ampera - Any Colour but Green!

    OK, Phil, we're going around in circles a bit. Certainly no put down intended, btw!

    I have no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the Ampera is cheap to run, if that is your point? Sadly, to be in that position, somebody has to pay £33,995 for it. You'll likely need to be doing 10,000 miles a year for over 9 years for it to be cheaper than non E-REV alternatives. I linked you to the spreadsheet, the facts speak for themselves.

    If CO2 is your intention, the Ampera isn't good at that either. You seem to agree with that.

    Ultimately:

    If you're looking for a cheap car - this isn't it.

    If you're looking for a low emissions car, this isn't it.

    If you're looking for an energy efficient car, this isn't it.

    One of the major advantages of an EV is that it's relatively low tech and low maintenance. This reduces services costs and should improve both longevity and reliability. They achieve this by not having an engine, not having a gearbox, not having a clutch, not having an catalytic converter, not having an exhaust pipe. The Ampera has all of these.

    Another advantage of an EV is that they are energy efficient. Renault have produced a van that will do 100 miles from a full charge of a 22kWh battery....a VAN! This car will only go 50 miles on 16kWh of electricity. How can that be efficient? It's not.

    I simply don't get it. If you're a high mileage driver, there are far more efficient options. If you're a low mileage driver, you'd just buy a Renault Fluence which is cheaper to buy and run.

    If you regularly need to go more than the 100mile range limit of the Fluence, you could consider Honda Jazz hybrid, Civic Hybrid, Insight, Toyota Prius and Yaris Hybrid - all of which would do the same job as the Ampera, for less money and less CO2, without the hassle of having to plug in.

    The price of petrol surely isn't so much of an issue if you're saving £150/mth on the car finance to buy the thing?

    I see this as nothing more than jumping on the EV bandwagon with a product that simply doesn't offer what it should.

  16. 16) Phil Huff Said: (22/07/2011 09:12:34 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Vauxhall Ampera - Any Colour but Green!

    "I have no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the Ampera is cheap to run, if that is your point? Sadly, to be in that position, somebody has to pay £33,995 for it."

    A fair point, but then I don't think any 'green' car is cheap enough right now.

    "If CO2 is your intention, the Ampera isn't good at that either. You seem to agree with that."

    Indeed I do.

    Ultimately: (see what I did there?)

    I don't feel that any of the current crop of 'green' cars aren't up to the task. Yes, some cut CO2 significantly, but at a hefty financial cost, and the industry needs to achieve both sides to gain mass acceptance. Early adopters will have to continue to fund the development for the rest of us, but I have no doubt at all that the industry will manage to come up with a financially viable and near pollution free car, and it will be sooner than many think.

  17. 17) James Said: (26/07/2011 16:23:58 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Vauxhall Ampera - Any Colour but Green!

    I'm slow to the game with this reply, but better late than never. There are some interesting points made in Ben's piece, and they raise questions that the engineers at GM are no doubt already looking at.

    I've been fortunate in being able to follow the development of the Volt/Ampera from beginning. In the early stages of the programme there were some wacky ideas being banded about to improve efficiency. Some made it to the end product, other didn't. But the core of the vehicle, the mating of an electric motor/generator and a combustion engine was always going to be the powertrain configuration, and it is this that is very different to the alternatives, and an option many other OEMs and suppliers are now looking at.

    In Volt/Ampera guise, the powertrain is far from perfect, as Ben states there are many deficiencies in the layout resulting in emission and fuel efficiency figures that don't necessarily meet the expectations of the journalists or perhaps the public. This is partly down to the combustion engine.

    Developing a vehicle costs many hundreds of millions of pounds (dollars), adding to that by developing a new engine isn't always viable. For that reason the Volt/Ampera uses an off the shelf engine that isn't designed for this application. It has been modified, but that can only ever have a limited affect. But what the Volt/Ampera proves is that the powertrain configuration can work, and now competitors are developing the technology, with combustion engines specifically designed for the task - Volvo, Lotus and Mahle to name just a few. And the range of technologies is increasing to include rotary and small displacement units. All should hopefully improve efficiency.

    Cost is always going to be an issue. £33,000 can't be wrapped up as a bargain, but it is a start, and volumes for the Volt and Ampera are small which doesn't help the matter. But if you're looking at buying a car and have a budget that matches the list price it is an option, the same applies to the Nissan Leaf.

    But the biggest influence on the price of the vehicle is the battery. It equates to a third of the cost of the vehicle. That is a key area for engineers. reducing cost and of course improving performance.

    And I note that some people have questioned how far battery development has come since GM's EV1 project. It's true the range remains more or less the same, but in terms of size and weight the technologies employed are worlds apart. If you ask an engineer what they would do as battery technology improves, shrink the battery pack or increase range, 9/10 will say make the pack smaller.

    The Volt/Ampera will of course, rightly or wrongly, be compared to vehicles already on our roads, and if it doesn't match or beat existing CO2 emissions or better fuel efficiency it'll be seen as a failure. But with all of the alternative powertrains coming to the market, a long-term approach has to be taken.

    A final point on the CO2 emissions based on the electricity grid. The values vary considerably, and while giving an average of 9kg makes writing a piece easier and perhaps more accessible for the reader, as a reflection of the emissions possibilities it doesn't tell the whole story. Those "emission free" 50 miles will have huge fluctuations in actual weel-to-wheel emissions.

  18. 18) Clive Sinclair Said: (08/09/2011 08:57:06 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Vauxhall Ampera - Any Colour but Green!

    Forget the CO2, MPG, number of seats. It's clear the public has spoken and the biggest complaint about eco, ev, e-rev, phev...?

    Price! You simply cannot avoid the fact that many people will not, or more accurately can't afford to buy these cars.

    Sure the overall running cost may be lower on some vehicles, but you still have to buy the damn things. Leasing one? That's still going to increase a persons monthly transport costs by a lot more than they are currently paying.

    Facts, surveys, studies and the Mark 1 eyeball all show that the vast majority of vehicles on our roads all have one thing in common... that one thing? The driver - and usually on his own. How many vehicles have you all seen in the last 24 hours with four people on board - compared to ones with driver or driver/front seat passenger?

    Currently the most popular selling and affordable vehicles in the UK are the Supermini eco diesels. Easily getting real world MPG of 60mpg and more and in VED A or B. Add to this the price range of £12000+.

    Unsurprising that the top 10 most fuel efficient cars that you can get in the UK today, based on their combined fuel efficiency figure are diesel superminis.

    And with fuel tanks around 10 gallons (UK), that means most will have a minimum range of 600 miles.

    High MPG, low CO2, good range and low purchase cost - those are the simply the priorities 'real' people put first when buying a new vehicle. They simple don't buy into this 'the average daily journey is jus 12 miles' (or whatever it is today). And they cannot afford to go from a £15k car to a £25 car.

    But what they are seeing is the car they paid £12-15k 5 years ago is now doing 60mpg+, rather than their old 40mpg and their road tax will be a lot less.

  19. 19) Mike Said: (09/06/2012 00:56:23 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Vauxhall Ampera - Any Colour but Green!

    So basically your saying the car is not at fault but the grid supply is; and if someone were to pay out for a pv install, that would not make any difference as the pv is supposed to be improving grid co2 levels ?.

    Grid co2 is likly to improve during the ownership of the car and co2 on an internal combustion car is likly to decrease due to wear. PV/wind will undoubtedly become more widespread as has been the case in the past 2 years with feed in tariffs which have had the effect of halfing the cost of pv panels. We need a similar process to take place with the price of lithium batterys to make ev and p-hev's more affordable to the masses.

    One thing for sure is petrol/diesel will be more expensive in 5-8 years time and there will be less left (oil) where as elec has the potential for an infinite clean supply with renewables.

    If's, buts and may-be's but I think this sort of car should be encouraged now. Clearly it is compromised by a petrol engine to overcome the range limitations of ev's but if this and the Leaf etc get the wheels in motion in terms of charging networks etc then we will all benefit in the long term.

    I can see the merit of your arguments on co2 but bashing this type of bold move by a major car maker into alternative fuel vehicles serves no benefit in the long term. We all know oil will run out soon (even Clarkson admits that one!) so alternative should be encouraged, even if they are let down by our dirty grid elec supply.

  20. 20) John Hardy Said: (19/06/2013 21:04:08 GMT) Gravatar Image
    Vauxhall Ampera - Any Colour but Green!

    I have 4000 miles on my Ampera. I routinely get 45 - 47 miles on a charge (Vauxhall say 20-50). My lifetime fuel consumption is 247 m.p.g. at last count. It is very efficient on petrol (I get about 17 km per litre) but the car will go 14 km on the electricity used to EXTRACT AND REFINE that litre of petrol. Leave the frigging oil in the ground and just give me the electricity.

    Plus it'll blow the doors of most petrol engined cars away from the lights unless the other guys sits there racing his engine, plus my teenager thinks it looks uber-cool

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