Vauxhall Ampera extended range e-car
Behind the wheel of GM's green mobile
First Looks The first left-hand drive pre-production examples of the Vauxhall/Opel Ampera extended-range e-car have arrived in the UK. To illustrate the benefits of range extension, one of them was driven from the Vauxhall Heritage Centre in Luton to the assembly plant in Ellesmere Port where Reg Hardware was on hand to take it for a spin.
Touring range is what the Ampera is all about. Though capable of covering around 40 miles using the energy stored in its battery pack, an extra 310 miles is available should you wish to avail yourself of the contents of the petrol tank. That's the big pitch: no "range anxiety" for those wishing to use their e-car to cover long distances as well as local commutes.
In all circumstances, the front-wheel drive Ampera is powered by an electric motor with a peak power output of 111kW (149bhp) with the range extender coming into play when the 220-cell, 16kWh lithium-ion battery pack drops below 20 per cent of maximum charge.
When that happens a 1.4 litre petrol engine kicks in to drive the electric motor's generator and recharge the battery pack with the help of the regenerative braking system.
My test car had an exhausted battery so it was running in range-extension mode - ie. with the four pot running continually. It's not like any other petrol-engined car you will have driven, though because the engine runs at four fixed RPMs depending on system power requirements.
It looks promising, but one useful bit of information would have been what the size of that the fuel tank is so we might have a clue about the mileage achievable on long runs. To match the economy of my 1.6 Focus turbo diesel (where I average about 12.5 miles per litre) then it's going to have to be no more than 25 litres (and I'd hope that an internal combustion engine tuned for the job and running at the optimal efficient level would do better, especially when helped out with regenerative braking.
I can't, incidentally, see any justification whatsoever for a government funded £5,000 rebate on something like this. Until we have a considerable amount of carbon-free electricity, then this thing will mostly be charged using the standard UK generation mix, and the thermodynamic efficiency of the generation and distribution averages out at 31% (which puts the end to end thermodynamic efficiency of this into the same categories as the mose efficient diesels). The CO2 emissions of the UK electrical generation system is about 0.5Kg per KWh. Assuming that the 40 mile range (64 Km) is achieved on 80% of the charge (12.8KWh) and that the charging process is 100% efficient (which it can't be) then that is 6.4Kg of CO2 using the average UK energy generation mix or about 100gm/km. That's an OK figure, but not startlingly good. Quite apart from any possible rebate, there is a massive government subsidy on such vehicles (compared to petrol/diesel) as there is no duty payable on the electricity it uses and VAT is levied at a lower rate than normal.
Of course if we can use more carbon-free electricity and and/or this can make use of off-peak power that would otherwise be wasted, then it would make more sense. However, the environmental benefits of this (apart from tailpipe emission reductions) are going to be minimal in the UK context compared to an efficient diesel and almost certainly outweighed by the considerable extra embedded energy in its manufacture (it has a smaller engine, but has to carry round electric motors, batteries and a a generator).
So, to make sense of this sort of thing we are going to have to have a rather smarter way of charging these things and to use off-peak sensibly it will require smart meters should large numbers of electrical vehicles be used. On nights when there is a lot of wind energy available then it will make sense to use that to charge these cars. However, simply firing up a lot of fossil-fueled powered stations just to charge up a lot of electrical cars would probably not make much sense - it could well be more thermally efficient to use the "range extender". To do this properly is going to require a revolution in the UK power distribution systems.
All EVs are automatics
"no stick == no thanks, no buy"
You really don't understand much about engines do you? All electric cars will and can only be automatic only, even the ones that have gearbox (not strictly necessary for an EV).
The Ampera is a bit of a looker too....
Should blind people be driving cars?
from the front it looks like a storm troopers helmet, blech - and in white, it reminds me of another all white battery powered vehicle, a milk float.