Test Drive: Vauxhall Ampera Electric Hybrid
Some of my neighbours take an interest in my wheels. "Another electric car?" one asks. Well, yes, mostly, I tell him, but it also has a 1.4-litre petrol engine. "Hybrid then?" he says, knowingly (bit of a smartarse, this one. I can say that – I don't think he reads the Guardian). Actually, no, not really, and Vauxhall gets a bit cross if you call it a hybrid. It is an electric car; it runs permanently on its electric motor with a battery that will take you 25-30 miles emitting diddly-squat. The petrol engine is like a back-up generator for when the battery gets low. An EV with a range-extending petrol motor/generator then.
That's a little problem with the Ampera, the fact that it isn't easily classifiable by a simple one- or two-word term that everyone – and their neighbours – can understand.
Otherwise, it's rather brilliant. An electric car you can use as your one and only car (they begin to lose their point when there's also a Range Rover parked up on the drive). Away game at St James' Park? No problem, we'll take the car. (I speak from a Gooner's point of view. A Mackem could easily get there and back in a Nissan Leaf or a Renault Zoe.) And we won't have to stop four times on the way to recharge or fill up. You won't get those amazing figures – 235.4mpg and 27g/km – on a trip like that (they're based on average journeys), but it's nice to know that you can at least go in the car. And go without that 21st-century motoring ailment known as "range anxiety" to add to normal away game/football/general life worries.
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