Feeling electric with Opel Ampera

You may have heard a lot about the Ampera over the last few months and some of you might be wondering what all the fuss is about.

You may have heard a lot about the Ampera over the last few months and some of you might be wondering what all the fuss is about.

Well, let me explain.

The Ampera isn’t your run of the mill hybrid; it’s an EV with a petrol engine back up. That’s a rather simplistic view of the car because it involves basically three engines, there’s a petrol engine up front that Opel call a range extender. In the middle there’s an electric engine or generator that’s powered by a battery unit down the back.

Sounds like a hybrid doesn’t it?

The key difference is that the electric engine will go as far as it can, around 70kms before the petrol engine cuts in and both drives the car and recharges the batteries or you can plug it into a charge station. Really, this is a new kind of car and it bridges the gap between all electric and hybrid and that’s needed because a full EV will always come with range anxiety and a hybrid will always cut in the petrol engine as soon as it needs more speed. Whereas the Ampera will use only EV mode for as long as it can.

But what’s it like to drive I hear you ask?

When I got to the HQ of Opel in Russelsheim, Germany we were given a challenge. Drive from the factory to a stopover point using the least amount of fuel possible. Simple, right?

I set off and I was doing quite well, I hadn’t used a drop of petrol on the drive out to the Autobahn but it was this road that was my downfall. Briefly I was the fastest moving electric car in the world; I clocked 175kph from just batteries! Surprisingly the petrol engine didn’t cut in, the Ampera just kept on going, unsurprisingly I came last in the challenge; but the car still came out very economical to drive.

The cabin is well appointed; it feels modern and luxurious in all the right places. The tech heads among you will love the little info screen in front of you and the bigger one in the middle that has little read outs and graphs of how well you’re doing with your economy.

The little man behind the screen was all tsk tsk with me but I still had fun. Strange that there are only 4 seats in the car, it seems big enough to fit five adults. It does feel like driving the starship enterprise though, all shiny and organised. Even the outside is beautiful to look at; actually it’s the best looking eco car on the market.

All that said, there is a rather large price tag of about €47,000 which puts it into the premium segment and people who buy the big German premium cars would have to be convinced into buying an Opel. That aside, I do see the point of the car; it’s a real world useful tool and if your commute is short enough you may never use any petrol but it’s still there should you want to head to the beach without fear of running out of electricity. You’ll see the new Ampera as it does a tour of the dealers soon so look in Sheehy Motors Naas 045 906666 for more information.

- Tested by Bob Flavin