We haven't suddenly had a change of heart about the wonders of the high-performance petrol engine. True, this Vauxhall isn't the sort of car to get traditional lovers salivating, but by the end of this Spotted, there should be a clear and reasoned argument for having an Ampera in your life. If not, lambaste me in the comments.
The newsfeeds of most automotive websites are full of new electric vehicles: Audi has just introduced their E-tron electric SUV, Tesla has started delivering the Model 3 to customers and Mercedes recently revealed the EQC. However, they're either too expensive, fraught with delivery problems or don't exist yet, which is no good to us in the here and now with only a fiver in our back pockets. Thankfully, there is a growing supply of used electrified vehicles for sale that are similar money to a regular petrol hatchback. This is where the Vauxhall Ampera begins to make a case for itself.
Introduced in 2012, the Ampera, and closely related Chevrolet Volt, were built both to satisfy the growing demand for electric vehicles, and because the American government insisted upon it. When the big automakers went to Washington to ask for a bailout back in 2008, the administration were said to be none too pleased when they found out that executives had used expensive private jets to get there. So the bailout came with the condition of forcing the US auto industry to produce cars that were much more competitive with Japanese and European imports. The Toyota Prius had cleaned up in the hybrid market, so America had to come up with something special to challenge it.
GM had previous experience with electric cars, having made the EV1 in the 90s, so it wasn't beyond them. However, even though the electric car had been around just as long as petrol alternatives, the public wouldn't spend $30-40k on a vehicle that they could only use for 50-100 miles before it needed a lengthy recharge. To try and please everyone, the new car would be a range extender that would run primarily on battery power until it was out of juice, then switch over to a conventional engine to keep owners mobile.
The engine in question is the 1.4-litre petrol engine from the Corsa. It's a bit noisy when running because it has to sit at higher revs in order to act as a generator, and produce enough charge to satisfy the demands of the electric motors that drive the wheels. There are occasions when the engine does actually drive the wheels directly - which GM initially denied to try and avoid confusion - but for the most part, this is an electric vehicle.
Of course, when it does run on electric power, the car is incredibly quiet. It takes only six hours to replenish the battery from a slow 240v mains plug, which can be done easily overnight. The range is between 30-40 miles and then the petrol engine takes over and extends your range by 300 miles or more. The idea is that during your working week, you use electric power and switch over to petrol at the weekend when you want to get away. Thinking about it, despite the oldest being six years old, the current crop of plug-in hybrids haven't improved much upon this.
And when you consider that this is the lowest mileage example currently for sale, the £14,500 asking price is quite remarkable for a three-year-old car. It's essentially half of what it was new. Yes, early examples of the BMW i3 are similar money, but the Ampera can go further, is a bigger car and comes loaded with kit. There are even five years left of the eight-year, 100,000-mile battery warranty. All things considered, if you want an electric car but don't want to be bogged down by range anxiety and infrequent charging stations, the Ampera is one of the best used electrified vehicles you can buy. See, I told you there was a reasoned argument to be made for it.
SPECIFICATION - VAUXHALL AMPERA
Engine: 1,398cc, four-cylinder, 45Ah battery pack
Transmission: Permanent magnet electric propulsion motor located in a multi-mode transaxle, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 148@ 5,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 237@ 250-2,800rpm
MPG: 235.4 mpg
First registered: 2015
Recorded mileage: 15,000
Price new: £33,750 (£28,750 with grant)
Yours for: £14,500
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