The Vauxhall Ampera was first released as a plug-in hybrid passenger car, featuring the ‘Voltec’ series-hybrid propulsion technology from General Motors. The Ampera is characterized by its compact four-cylinder combustion engine within the bonnet and the promise of an electric version of the family car.
Technically the Ampera is referred to as a hybrid car, but it’s more of a series hybrid. This means the vehicle has a one propulsion system connected to the wheels; it also has an electric-petrol as opposed to the usual petrol-electric. Charging takes about 6 hours when plugged into a 13A domestic socket. The electronic power control module is able to maximize about 65 per cent of the battery’s total capacity. This percentage can already let the vehicle go from 25 to 50 miles. This indicates how its electric power performs well enough for every day driving. Car owners conscious about CO2 emissions can make the conversion to electric with the Ampera as their go to vehicle.
Apart from the main electric motor, there are two other power units beneath the Ampera bonnet: an 85bhp 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and a 71bhp electric motor/generator. A planetary gearbox and an electronic clutches system connect the three power sources to the Ampera’s front wheels. The planetary gearbox maximizes the power sources by combing the capability from both electric motors. The main motor is able to downspeed, thus improving overall efficiency. On high speed and demand, the petrol engine can connect to the wheels but will only do so to assist the main electric motor. The Ampera, after all, is first and foremost driven by electricity.
As an electric car meant to be driven daily for common purposes, the Ampera delivers in providing family oriented transport. This purpose is mainly realized by the powertrain and the space being large enough for four adults as a hatchback.
The interior boasts of some advanced features, such as two seven-inch LCD displays located on the centre stack and one in the area normally reserved for conventional instruments. There’s also a charge indicator to warn you on how much battery is available. When it runs empty, a fuel gauge appears to indicate the car is on range-extender mode.
The car’s total acceleration impresses at 60mph in just 10.1 seconds. The overall driving experience is relaxing and smooth, with little noise heard and no revs or gears to distract you. The modest versions of the Ampera accelerate at a slower pace but still at an impressive pace: 30 to 70mph only takes 9.7 seconds and 6.2 seconds for 50 to 70 mph.
Unfortunately the interior compromises space for some impractical features. The T-shaped battery takes up too much space at the transmission tunnel, limiting passenger space to just four seats. There isn’t enough for a middle back seat to accommodate one more passenger. Quality materials are used for the most part in the interior, but some portions emphasize inconsistency.
Comfort marks most of the ride, but there is a slight jitter when going at lower speeds. Steering needs more feel and weight and bends tend to give more body lean.
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