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Charged Up! – The Opel Ampera


Opel’s eagerly awaited zero-emission Ampera is due in Ireland next month. We find out if this really is the world’s first usable electric car?

Few people in Ireland have opted  for electric cars and only 46 EVs found Irish homes last year. Price and limited range has been seen as a major deterrent. In addition the attraction of electric cars remains frustrated by the small number of charging points nationwide.

Opel’s Ampera is a totally new approach to electric motoring. While it combines an electric motor and a petrol engine it is unlike anything else currently available in the car market. The Ampera is powered completely by an electric motor and in contrast to a hybrid the petrol engine is used only to regenerate the battery and not actually power the car. The wheels of the car are always powered electrically .The result is an electric car that drives like a conventional car with the bonus of a 500km range. It can be charged at home through a standard 10amp powerpoint in five to six hours or faster with a specific charger. 

Depending on your style of driving and road conditions, a distance of between 40 to 80 kilometres can be covered in the purely battery-operated mode, totally free of emissions. On a trip around Frankfurt this week we actually achieved 73kms on the battery alone and overall our 90km trip consumed 0.88 litres of petrol. When the battery is empty, the 1.4-litre petrol engine drives a generator to recharge the battery so your journey is never limited by the state of the battery.

Behind the wheel you can monitor just how economical your style of driving is by a bouncing green ball on one of the two dash displays. There are also various modes you can select for specific driving conditions. On the road there is no lack of performance and it handles well and the steering is sharp. Whether on the open road, or city streets the Ampera is good to drive.

 

Stylish inside and out the Ampera is comfortable and practical. Space is decent throughout but the large lithium-ion battery pack extends through the centre of the car so there are only two seats in the rear. 

The Ampera bridges the gap between hybrid and EV. It is capable of doing a daily commute on purely battery power but still affords the peace of mind to head off for a long weekend safe in the knowledge that this car has the range to last the journey.

 

The real Achilles heel of this car is the price. It will start in Ireland at just under 47K which clearly makes it an expensive choice and not a car that will sell in large volumes. What the Ampera does is make electric motoring a usable alternative. It confines range anxiety to the past and simplifies the charging process, this is truly zero emission motoring at its very best.

 5th August, 2012

Filed Under: First Drive

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