back to article Vauxhall Ampera extended range e-car

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 …

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  1. Aculeo
    Unhappy

    Pricing

    "Nothing was said about pricing, though the cost to the consumer will depend on whether the new government honours the Brown government's pledge of a £5000 rebate on e-cars."

    I doubt it. I expect the price to be somewhere in the region of forty-seven bazillion pounds, like every other e-car that does more than about 4mph.

    Gods forbid we should be actively *encouraging* people off their oil addiction: make it as expensive as humanly possible, I say.

    If one was prone to conspiracy theories, or banal political statements, one might suppose it was something to do with the number of powerful people making lots and lots of money out of the oil industry.

    1. mmiied

      there site

      says 25-30k

      a bit expencive but maby not with the cost of petrol and the savings you coudl make and maby the £5000 rebate

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Headmaster

        First off...

        ... it is "their site".

        Second, £30,000?! The Chevy volt is expected to only cost about US$40,000 (about £26,700). Why so much more expensive?

      2. Aculeo
        Thumb Down

        Still out of my reach

        "a bit expencive but maby not with the cost of petrol and the savings you coudl make and maby the £5000 rebate"

        Unfortunately before I can make those savings and get the benefit of reduced fuel costs - and I don't deny I probably *would* save on those things - I have to be able to afford the inital outlay. Even with the possible rebate, it's still prohibitive. Perhaps it's only to be expected that new technologies are expensive - they are with computers, phones, everything else. It just seems that the electric car market isn't going to really take off until they stop marketing them as status symbols and expensive toys, and bring them into the range of Average Jo/e.

  2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    First successful mass market hybrid?

    Just possibly maybe.

    Electric only suggests *no* drive shafts and a simple lightweight gearbox (The only thing the engine drives is the generator a few cm away from it).

    I think drivers might be surprised (provided they top over night) how *rarely* they need the engine for daily commuting.

    As always battery pack life is an issue. If the pack can't match the cars life expectancy (and I doubt it can) it had better be *fairly* easy to replace by the average garage.

    Sounding positive so far but is it too big to be popular for the daily commute. only time will tell.

    1. Paul RND*1000
      Thumb Up

      Yes, big improvement

      I read once how the Prius' much-hyped "Hybrid Synergy Drive" works. It's a wonder of technical achievement in that it's so ridiculously technically overcomplicated it's a wonder it works at all. It's as if they were so fixated on finding a clever solution to the problem that they missed the bleedin' obvious simple one. As a programmer, I can appreciate how that happens. :) GM have a mechanically much simpler, lighter system working here, fewer complex bits to break and the dino-juice motor only needs to be large enough to power the electric motors and put a charge on the batteries. Much more efficient than turning the wheels directly.

      This might be the first EV/hybrid which is practical for my needs. My 5-days a week commute is 17 miles each way with easy access to electricity at both ends. I run into town maybe once a week (about a 60 mile round trip) and only rarely need to go really long distances. If the batteries come even close to their rated range, my biggest problem would be having to add fuel stabilizer to the petrol so it stayed fresh for the several months it took to use a tankful!

      Whether it's cost-effective or not would depend on how much it costs to charge, from mains power, compared to the same mileage covered in a similar sized petrol-only car. I suspect it'll be much cheaper to run in most places.

      As for being greener, that all depends on the way the mains power you use is generated, and how the batteries etc. are manufactured. EVs aren't as "green" as they're made out to be when you look beyond fuel mileage, but from a purely selfish view (spending less money on fuel) this car looks good to me.

    2. Chemist

      Re :First successful mass market hybrid?

      Seems to have one electric motor and therefore does have drive shafts. Certainly cut-away views look as though it does. According to The Telegraph :

      "General Motors is working on the problem and this autumn plans to unveil a mechanical direct-drive from the engine to the front wheels through the existing twin-clutch planetary gearbox. This would reduce the energy losses of turning petrol power into electricity to drive the car at high speeds, and would also give the Ampera more spritely overtaking performance."

  3. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    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.

    1. Mike Richards Silver badge

      Looks

      It looks like an American's idea of what a European saloon should look like, after having a Maserati described by a mime artist.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Richard Fletcher

    Recharging

    When the revolution comes should I expect to see mains extensions coming out of all the windows on my terraced street leading to the cars for overnight charging?

    Wouldn't that be a safety hazard? Should we expect charging stations to be built on every residential road.

    I mean, if you have a drive, or a garage, then you're probably OK. But there are literally millions of car owners who don't have a drive or a garage.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hmm

      You mean by adding a charging post like a parking meter, or incorporating a station in the base of the street lights?

      There are many solutions to the problem, just think it though!

    2. Tim #3

      Don't worry

      Leads out of windows won't be an issue, as normal 13amp sockets are not up to providing the charging current that EVs require, there'll need to be special high-amperage points installed somewhere more convenient instead (god knows who'll pay for that tho).

      1. JBR
        Headmaster

        is the infrastructure ready?

        Can the local substation supply the power if everyone had a leccy car? Is this what smart metering is going to solve? I can't see the gammy cables outside my house being up to the job.

  6. Anton Ivanov
    Flame

    "And even the very best diesels still sound like, well, diesels."

    Cough... Cough...

    Diesel sounding like diesel... Hmm.... That is valid for American Agricultural Vibrator (aka Ford), Deutche Panzer (aka VW) and Francais Transport D'œufs (aka PSV) diseasel. Not for a properly engineered diesel. Try a _PROPER_ modern diesel - something like the Honda FRV or Accord CRDi or if worst comes to worst even some of the recent Nissans.

    As far as the car is concerned - no stick == no thanks, no buy. So far the only next gen hybrid worth driving has been the new Honda CRZ (which should have been called Insight if not for Honda marketing having too much whalesong)

    1. karakalWitchOfTheWest
      Thumb Down

      Sorry to disagree...

      ...but in comparison to a real French Commonrail Diesel from Renault for example the Honda Diesel sounds (and performs) like a very old traktor...

      And I assume you haven't used an next-Gen (after Pumpe-Düse) Diesel from VW.....

      Ah, and the Nissans are Renaults too...

    2. Michael Brown
      FAIL

      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).

      1. Stacy
        Thumb Up

        Really...

        I've been thinking about this when talking to colleagues about things like the Lightning sports car.

        There are all sorts of electronics to stop the wheels doing their own thing with the torque that is available (and 370Nm is impressive! Makes my current T5 look tame, shame that the performance that goes with it doesn't). Why not use al electronic gearbox to limit it to make the throttle response better? I use the range of the throttle in my car in most gears depending on what I am doing, having no gears at all makes that more difficult. Having an electronic box gives an amout of control back to the drivers, and as it's only an electronic cotroller doesn't add too much to the price...

        Whislt this isn't the car for me it is the best step in the right directin that I have seen. Useful amount of power and torque, simplified drive train. Now about those fuel figures they didn't release? That'll be the killer feature should the be good!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        WTF?

        Why do they have to be?

        "All EVs are automatics"

        Why do they have to be?

        In essence, you are substituting one form of propulsion for another.

        The gearbox gives you different compromises between power and speed up and down the run range.

        Why would you not want this in an EV?

        Automatic boxes are just more complicated and expensive if they go wrong.

        Some people will want them, others won't.

        I'm driving an automatic (petrol that is) in Canada at the moment - what I wouldn't give for a manual box now. Autos are a pig to drive on slopes that are snowy and icey. No selecting high gears in an auto.

        1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
          Boffin

          No shifting

          Fancier electric motors work fine with a single gear ratio. Moving the torque curve can be done by changing voltage ranges, changing windings, or by mechanically moving the magnets.

          I don't know why you're having traction control problems with an automatic gearbox. Good cars have precision control over wheel spin. An electric motor would be even more precise and a rat's nest of complex brake modulation plumbing would go away. It's just a matter of the engine control computer in an electric car knowing how to do it.

          My only gripe about electric cars is that they're still lacking refinement. The technology isn't mature enough to build an affordable electric car that is durable, sporty, and efficient all at the same time. This car comes close but I have my doubts that being efficient for only the first 40 miles is good enough.

      3. Anton Ivanov
        Flame

        Bollocks

        Original Honda Insight (not the Prius-like wannabie) is manual, so is first gen Honda Civic EV, so are a couple of Mercedes prototypes. Based on the initial announcement the CR-Z was a 6-speed stick similar to the original Insight. I have not driven it yet so no idea if it is manual or not.

        So as I said - no stick, no buy. You can have a stick with an electric car even today.

    3. rhydian

      Modren diesels may sound better than old ones, but its a tradeoff...

      Modern diesels are a world away from the 1980s/1990s van engines of old BUT they have traded reliability for performance and refinement. Modern commonrail diesels have a lot of injection and emissions kit that fails in spectacular and expensive ways.

    4. Paul RND*1000

      No stick = no problem

      You forget that the only reason internal combustion powered vehicles even need a gearbox and clutch/torque converter is because of the ridiculously narrow power and torque bands they provide, the upper and lower operating limits on RPMs (too low = stall, too high = floating valves, oil shear, self-disassembly - which is why modern mills have limiters) and because they can only turn in one direction. With a gas or diesel engine, I'm with you; automatics suck.

      OTOH an electric motor can operate at a wide range of speeds from completely stopped to very high RPMs, do it backwards or forwards and push out lots of torque to get things moving from a total standstill. You don't really need any more than one gear ratio with a well-designed EV, don't need a clutch or torque converter for low-speed operation either. Seems to work for Tesla's Roadster in any case.

    5. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Honda? haha

      Honda were the people who said they didnt need to produce a diesel engine as they could improve their petrol engines to provide the same benefits.

      Diesel's have two benefits, huge torque (people buy horsepower but drive torque as the saying goes) and efficiency.

      Honda's diesel messed around with the diesel formula, so they don't get the torque the other makes get. You need something like a 2.2 litre Honda to get the torque of a 1.9 VW engine.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds good to me.

    Certainly sounds like a promising next step from the 'hybrid' cars. Can you plug it into the mains?

    1. mmiied

      looking at there site

      you can it looks quite good as well they clame only 3h charging time for a full charge and 250+ miles on a full tank of petrol that compares quite favroable with my current 40 leter skoda at 300+ so if it <40 leter tank that is as good as standard cars on petrol and with the 40 mile electric buffer it looks like a very good car

    2. Piro

      Yes

      That's the main reason for it.

      Standard mains lead, charge the battery overnight. That gives you a cheap 40 miles, then petrol after, but used efficiently since the engine is always at optimum RPM.

  8. Steven Jones

    Promising but...

    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.

    1. mmiied

      the point

      is future proffing

      you CAN genrate electricity form non focile fule sorces ware as it is very trickey to make a good car on non focile fule sorces and as car replacment times is a slow thing we should be encrouging pepol to use electric cars now so as thewre will be lots of them around when our elected lords and masters get there colitive fingers out and build us some clean nuke plants

      1. Steven Jones

        "lots of them around"

        Not that I'm against nuclear plants, quite the reverse, but I assume you are aware of the lead times required to build a nuclear plant? The last nuclear plant in the UK took 7 years to build, and there are only so many of them that can be built in any given time as there is a limited amount of the required expertise and manufacturing capacity. We aren't even going to be able to replace many of our aging nuclear plants before they have to be taken out of service, let alone the capacity required to charge up large numbers of electric cars. Then there is the little issue of upgrading all the grid and local distribution capacity as it's certainly going to need bolstering if there are large number of electric vehicles being charged up (which is another reason why you need smart metering to control the charge rate of electric vehicles).

        By the time all this is in place any electric vehicle you buy now is going to be obsolete.

        Not to say it can't be done, but it's going to need a proper end-to-end planning strategy ecompassing smart grids and appliances, distribution, generation, manufacturing and it's simply not going to be possible to forgo all the revenue currently raised from fuel duty for any significant number of vehicles.

        In the short term if, magically, the car industry managed to sell a few million of these type of plug-in hybrids in the next few years it will break the UK electricity generation and distribution system. Imagine the extra load if 5 million electric cars are all plugged into the mains when people return from work and start drawing 2-3KW each? It's going to need proper planning.

  9. Matt 21

    Made in the states, no thanks!

    I'll never buy another car made in the states after a couple of bad experiences. They just don't seem capable of European quality levels.

    It's nice that someone's driven one but it's pretty meaningless until we get to know the mpg.

  10. Matthew 17

    Potentially the first viable electric car IMO

    This is basically the Euro version of the American Chevy Volt, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Volt

    Batteries are supposed to be good for 10 years, whilst running with the generator it's supposed to return 60MPG. The ERV concept makes sense to me, much better than the regular hybrid systems where they have to switch between electric and petrol drive.

    I think they should consider trying a diesel motor for it though.

    I'd be interested in taking one for a spin.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Eh?

    How can you call the IC engine a "range extender" when it will do much further on the IC than on the battery? It would be like having a ten gallon tank with a 1 gallon main and 9 gallon "reserve". Sounds to me like a very cynical marketing ploy. There was some talk about government aid to buy leccy cars wasn't there? Bet that goes by the board now we are on "auterity measures". But, hey guess what you can get cheap tax! Let's not mention that the massive purchase cost will more than offset many years of cheap tax.

    We keep getting told that in the "real world" batteries hold more than enough power for our daily grind and that we only need extended range very occasionally. Sorry, but I don't think I'm unusual in having a 22 mile commute (44 miles round trip) with the addition of a few site calls 80-100 mile days are the rule rather than the exception. For those who do the right mileage EVs are a great idea, but the pro EV lobby spend far too much time bullshitting us that they are the solution for everybody.

    As for Hybrids, they are something of a joke. One of our neighbours owned one of those Pious things for a couple of years. In all that time he never got more than 40mpg out of a tank.Given that I was getting the same mileage out of my Lancer Estate the premium he paid for his Pious seemed pointless. Better for the environment? Nope, it's worse. Yes it used the same amount of fuel and will therefore produce the same emissions as my mundane IC car, but the production and later disposal of all those nasty batteries tips it over the edge.

    Hybrids are developmental dead end, the idea that they are only there until battery tech improves is also a nonsense. There is no evidence that battery technology is advancing faster now than it has in the past 100 years. And even if somebody does suddenly invent a massive capacity battery that weighs half a kilo and will run a car for a thousand miles there will always be the problem of charging it. Domestic supplies are 100A absolute maximum, but generally speaking most houses would need serious work doing to deliver anything like that to the garage. So even if the battery does advance significantly and suddenly tomorrow's range will still be limitted by how much energy you can get into that battery tonight. And if you park on street you'll be limitted to filling up at a filling station. A few minutes to give you 500 miles range? Forget it. You wouldn't be able to lift the charge cable and the heat from the batteries while charging would be enormous. And who's going to pay for the massive upgrades in distribution infrastructure to allow us to charge at that rate?

    We need to look at an alternative that does not rely on fossil fuels or batteries.

  12. mmiied

    at last

    I love this idar

    to prove how geekey I am I went throught all my journies for the last eyar and sorted out how meny of them where over 40 miles and I have found that last year there was only 3 reasions I travles more than 40 miles in a day and I could could the amount of trips I made that where over 40 miles on the fingers of my hands (provided I grew 2 extra hands) I am still calcluating how much petrol I would have saved but I recon if I had owned this car last year I would have only had to vist a perol station about 4 times in the year

    1. mmiied
      FAIL

      range extender

      it is simple why it is called a range extender it is because the petrol moter dose not in any way drive the wheeles in all it's opertaing modes the electric moter drives the wheels with power from the battry when the battry gets low the moter then charges up the battry extending the range of the battry

      it is called range extended electric to disguniguish this good tech form the silly hybrid tech we have had before where the petrol was allways going with the eletric only helping abit this is the other way round it is mainley an electric car with a pretol genrator on bord

    2. TeeCee Gold badge

      @Matthew 17

      "I think they should consider trying a diesel motor for it though."

      There's a damned good reason they don't. Small capacity diesels have whopping high-boost turbos on 'em which gives two problems. First, if they're only run occasionally the turbo bearings get to dry out between uses and fail very quickly (and expensively). Secondly they generate a shitload of heat, putting the underbonnet temps way up over an equivalent petrol unit, which is bad news for the 'leccy motor and inverter assembly. That latter is the main reason why Pug are shoving the 'leccy drive at the opposite end of their upcoming (diesel) hybrid from the IC engine.

      Another problem here is that the shitwits at the EU have just mandated particulate filters on all new diesels. This effectively rules 'em out for anything only running its IC engine intermittently.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      replaceable battery packs

      recharging should be a simple matter of swapping the battery pack . OK its a bit of a tricky problem mechanically, and would ideally require a standard pack design, not to mention some effective security tracking. This would be for long motorway journeys, a regular plug-in charger would do for domestic use. Similarly, most parking spots would have a charging post so any 10-20 minute stop for coffee or shopping would put another 40 miles in the tank. A simple replacement cover plate for a street lamp would be perfect.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        don't be silly

        If you just purchased a new EV would you really want to drive around for a few hours and then replace that lovely new battery with one that been charged 400 times and will now only give you about one tenth the range!

        All current electric/hybrid cars are using the same battery technology as your mobile phones, and as everyone knows after a year or so that phone that originally could last a week now has a flat battery after 1 day.

        Not to mention how extremely environment unfriendly the production of those batteries is, due to the toxic metals and other chemicals used in the production.

        Then we have the issue that the UK (and many other nations) power grids are starting to struggle with current domestic usage. Adding just one electric car to a household will pretty much double their usage. The national grid/power generation issues have been known for years, but the last bunch of twats in power wouldn't make the decisions on how to fix it.

        Also one thing I just cannot understand is why all these hybrid things use petrol engines, a small diesel would be much better (maybe the weight of all those mostly useless batteries is the problem?).

        For those who don't know diesel engines are almost twice as efficient at converting the fuel to locomotive power than any petrol engines, due to the way they burn fuel rather than explode it. This is also the reason they don't like high revs, but give vast amounts of low end toque.

        Me; I will stick to my (now 4 year old) 2L Turbo-Diesel (a VW Passat estate) which easily gives me 40-45MPG around town and around 50MPG on longer trips and motorways. That's one tank of fuel (~65Ltrs) giving 600 to 700 miles range.

        In fact I know 6 other people with modern VW diesels (and one Audi), and not one would even consider going back to petrol cars.

        1. MrT
          Boffin

          It's a petrol because...

          ...they can fit one unit in the car and have it adapt to many different fuels - regular, super, E85, wood alcohol etc. A typical modern clean-burning (i.e. high pressure) turbo diesel has to be adapted to run on various FAME mixes, otherwise bye-bye fuel pump, line seals, injectors etc. Even one that is sold ready-adapted usually has a specific mineral oil content requirement - you might be able to run an old diesel Escort on discarded chip fat, but not a modern Euro5 unit (no matter what VW and others may claim, they cannot run on 100% vegetable oil).

          So, the choice of a petrol generator is actually down to economics of production, which will lead to better economies of scale. One engine for the whole planet. Let's not forget that this is a US vehicle at heart and you don't see diesel pumps at many filling stations, although it is becoming more widely available. If it were European-derived then the story might be different but this is a vehicle with a power generation unit developed for the world, not a regional one - fuels that can be used in a spark-ignition engine are much more widespread than compression ignition.

          Then there are the spin-off benefits - lower engine mass, lower levels of expensive emissions equipment, etc. Not sure about life in the fuel tank - I know the various 'super' versions of fuel (Ultimate, VPower etc) degrade faster than regular (both diesel and petrol) - so the point about fuel stabilisers is valid.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Turbo boost on diesels...

        is only used at higher revs to make then perform like petrol engines. They do this well including making them run much less efficienlty (ie: low MPG).

        A diesel generating power to charge the battery would only need to be ticking over at about 1200-1500 rmp and would not have to generate vast heat from a turbo.

        Also diesels can be run on many different fuels, not just vegtible oils but also natural or town gas.

        For the youngerns: Town gas was produced by heating coal, and was the gas used all over the UK for industry, cooking and heating until the convertion over to the North Sea/Natual gas in the 1970's. It's why just about every town had its own Gas works and Monitors. I wouldn't be surprised if we have to re-build all those facilities again in the next decade either.

      3. Chemist

        Re : replaceable battery packs

        "any 10-20 minute stop for coffee or shopping would put another 40 miles in the tank"

        So you're planning to recharge a 16kWh battery in 10-20 mins. ?

        That'd be a 64kW connection then or 20+ electric kettles worth. That should be some cable ( or indeed street lamp )

      4. Steven Jones

        Diesel

        I think the main reason you won't find a diesel in this thing is that, firstly, it's American and they don't tend to go for diesels in cars. Secondly, a petrol engine of a given power is significantly smaller and lighter than a diesel engine and both are likely to be at a premium in such a car which has to squeeze in the electric drive, generator and batteries as well as the engine into the vehicle.

        Further, a petrol engine running at optimal revs is going to be considerably more economical than in a direct drive mode so the efficiency gains of the diesel would be less.

        As far as problems with turbos go, I don't really take them that seriously. There are plenty of turbo diesels that work in stop/start mode and they seem to cope fine these days and the heat issue isn't any big deal on a diesel. A diesel running at a constant RPM doesn't need a very sophisticated high-spec turbo and doesn't have to be run under a of stress. I'm sure the heat can be dealt with - after all, modern high powered cars have plenty of delicate electronics and generators and any turbo in some fire-breathing sports car is going to be spitting out vastly more heat than this 1.4 litre petrol engine (which I suspect doesn't generate much more than 40-50bhp).

        A more interesting alternative would be a small gas turbine which could burn almost anything and be much more compact than any reciprocating engine. Gas turbines can also be made very efficient, although the techniques to do so, as used in power stations, are probably not viable in a small unit. Then there would be the considerable costs to consider. (Yes, before anybody says it, I know that a turbo itself can be used as a gas turbine, but they aren't remotely efficient in such uses and spin far too fast for convenient shaft feeds).

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge
          FAIL

          Again, wrong.

          When was the last time you saw a Petrol-powered generator above 10KVA? (Approx 8-10kW)

          I'll give you a clue - never.

          Portable generators of reasonable size are almost always diesel - the only exceptions are the tiny <5KVA things you see in camping and DIY shops.

          There are a few rare LPG ones. (LPG was the only choice and was really hard to find for an event that wouldn't allow diesel fuel on site), but in general a generator is diesel.

          The only reason this vehicle is petrol is because diesel fuel stations are rare in the US.

          This car is *crying out* for a diesel engine. It doesn't need a turbo or any of the other 'performance-enhancing' gizmos added to modern car diesels, just the high-efficiency, low rpm systems used in a decent portable genny.

          Until it gets that engine - sorry, but *fail*.

      5. MrT

        Opel's original development version in 2007 was diesel...

        "The Opel Flextreme is a plug-in diesel extended range electric vehicle (EREV)—the third variant of GM’s E-Flex electric vehicle architecture—that offers up to 55 km (34 miles) of all-electric range. A 1.3-liter turbodiesel powers an onboard generator to replenish the 16 kWh li-ion battery pack and extend the vehicle’s driving range to a total of 715 km (444 miles)."

        Don't know when they voted for the 1.4L petrol Voltec version for all, but this at least shows the European vision was for a small TDi unit - useful 90 miles further for the combined range.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You are the exception.

      > Sorry, but I don't think I'm unusual in having a 22 mile commute (44 miles round trip) with the addition of a few site calls 80-100 mile days are the rule rather than the exception.

      100mile days are the exception. How many of us go to our place of work and stay there until the end of the day? Consider London which draws a good percentage of the population, all those cars parked in car parks in the commuter belt, doing nothing all day. How many jobs really need you to move around so much?

      The world doesn't revolve around you, and this car isn't designed for you. You chose your car based on your needs and there is a good proportion of people who would find it potentially suits them.

      But I'm sure you'll stick with your company BMW and keep complaining about fuel prices, which will only ever go up and up, while some make the switch and start to save on their fuel costs.

    5. Mike Richards Silver badge

      Built in Europe

      Though where precisely hasn't been decided. If you're lucky it'll come out of one of GM's German plants.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @AC you are the exception

        I suppose you were doing quite well until you got to the bit about the company BMW. Then you showed yourself to be the fuckwit you really are.

        Company BMW. Nope privately owned seven year old clunker on minimum mileage expenses only - no car allowance just the minimum mileage rate set by the tax man. Get out on the roads during the working day, which clearly you don't, and you will see the traffic is heavy with people who have to drive as part of their job. This is the real world. Not the world of London based office workers (with their company cars) who could be using public transport anyway.

        But the thing is you rather proved my point. I stated that the pro EV lobby need to look at the big picture rather than focusing on one part of the market and trying to bully us into believing that our needs match that of their target market. And you proved yourself to be part of that lobby. Yes there is a significant market for EV's, but you are foolling nobody but yourself in believing that the vast majority of us could cope with an EV.

        And the worse thing is that the plug in hybrid actually makes matters so much worse. We have to retain the infrastructure that provides and distributes fossil fuels along with the infrastructure to provide the electricity.

    6. dogged

      Diesel?

      Sure. Biodiesel would tick many boxes. Or old chop fat, even!

      An LPG version would also be interesting.

    7. Tim Hughes

      Touchy

      Someone just seems to hate the idea of electric cars!

      "There is no evidence that battery technology is advancing faster now than it has in the past 100 years" - absolutely, there's no such thing as laptops or smartphones, if it isn't lead-acid then it doesn't exist.

      "I don't think I'm unusual in having a 22 mile commute (44 miles round trip) with the addition of a few site calls 80-100 mile days are the rule rather than the exception" - of course, your life experience must be the norm. Look up the statistics. No-one in their right mind is suggesting that this is for everyone.

      Hybrids are a bit of a crap stepping-stone, and don't really stand on their own merits, but that is because everything has to be done in a market economy sooo sloowly. You need a dictatorship to drive big infrastructural changes quickly and miss out the incremental bits.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Tim Hughes

        Are you a native english speaker? It says "there is no evidence is accelerating any faster than it has in the last 100 years" it doesn't say that there has been no advancement in the last 100 years, just that the technology is not accelerating any faster than it has in the last 100 years.

        To put battery powered cars in a position where they can replace the current convenience of IC cars we would need battery technology to move on more in a couple of years than it did in the last 100 years. Yes it did advance more quickly in the last few years, but the rate of change of that advancement is not changing. That is to say it is not accelerating any faster, but in order for battery powered EVs to replace IC cars it won't just need to accelerate more quickly it will need a quantum leap.

        Hybrids are no replacement at all. If the technology does suddenly make a quantum leap next year you can bet your bottom dollar that you won't be able to get this year's model upgraded to next years tech. Or at least you won't be able to do it without paying out as much as it would cost you to replace your car.

        The automotive industry is famous for thinking outside the box, in so much as they come up with pretty impressive concept cars. Unfortunately they have seldom been good at putting those ideas into production.

    8. Brian 6
      Stop

      @ AC 10:35 GMT

      Well for a start u were not even brave enough to put a name to your bullshit.

      "Sorry, but I don't think I'm unusual in having a 22 mile commute (44 miles round trip) with the addition of a few site calls 80-100 mile days are the rule rather than the exception. For those who do the right mileage EVs are a great idea, but the pro EV lobby spend far too much time bullshitting us that they are the solution for everybody."

      There are several million people who live a lot closer than 22 miles from their work. None of my colleagues has a 44 mile round trip. Anyway the car is ideally suited to someone like u. Most of your journey to and from work would be on electric power, and your site calls on the IC motor. During your long site call trips the IC motor would be charging the battery as well as powering the car. For the rest of us our journey to work 5 days a week would be all electric and cheap as hell.

    9. Grease Monkey

      Ten Years?

      I love the idea that batteries are supposed to be good for ten years.

      We keep getting told similar things about all sorts of rechargable batteries. The laptop I'm typing this on is just over three years old. When it was new there was all sorts of tosh about the batteries not suffering from memory problems and being good for many years. By about a year ago the battery life was seriously shortened - to the extent that it was about 20% of what it had been new. Then came the day of the message that said something like "Although your battery is charging normally it is nearing the end of it's useful life." Contacting the supplier we found that the three year warranty didn't cover batteries even though the marketing claimed a battery life of several years the warranty considered them to be a consumable item. Several other laptops bought around the same time have suffered equally. The manufacturer told us that regularly only partly discharging the battery and recharging it to 100% will shorten it's working life. Furthermore they told us that if every time you discharge the battery you do it as much as possible and then recharge it fully the battery life will be much longer.

      OK so that secenario probably works quite well for something like an RC plane. It doesn't work for a laptop or indeed a car, and yet my laptop and that car has pretty much the same battery tech. When you take your car out you are not going to magically do the right mileage every day to run the battery flat, but when you get home you will plug it in whatever mileage you have covered that day.

      If they will give a no quibble warranty that the usuable battery capacity will not drop more than say 10% in ten years and that the charge and discharge rates will stay within the same tolerance then I'll take their claims seriously, but I bet they won't offer such a warranty. They'll probably just say that in "normal use" you will get 10 years out of your batteries, but that they can't be held responsible if you don't follow the recommended usage patterns. And if anybody finds themselve with dead batteries after two years they will be told, you must have used the car improperly and the only evidence they will need for this is the fact that the batteries are dead.

  13. Lottie

    cool

    Looks nice, has good range and sounds like it's going to be decently supported.

    Can't really see any problems with it.

  14. John Robson Silver badge

    big pedal?

    On all automatics I've driven the big pedal is for stopping...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More figures

    are available at http://www.whatcar.com/car-news/vauxhall-ampera-driven/250694 although they couldn't confirm them.

    It also occurred to me that once you're running on "range extension" you must get a drop in power because you can only take out of the battery what's put in minus the "conversion" costs.

    So first thing you get the battery's full delivery, but after 40 miles you only get the weaker input of the 1.4 engine, minus whatever losses occur during conversion.

  16. Steve Crook

    Where do I plug it in?

    I live in an end of terrace house. I park the car in the street as there's no garage and no off road parking. I can't run a cable across the street to charge it up.

    Is it just me, or is this going to be a problem for a large slice of the population? For all sorts of reasons, fuel cells seem like a much better prospect.

  17. umacf24
    Boffin

    Why use an IC engine?

    If you are only charging batteries at a fixed load it seems that the special advantage of IC -- performance under variable load -- is lost. You should be able to get better efficiency from something else. Anyone fancy a gas turbine motor? -- we could fill up with JP1.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Are you kidding me?

    "The car showed no signs of the expected American wallow and felt tight, balanced and composed no matter how deliberately ham-fisted I tried to be. In fact, it handles much like a Chevrolet Cruz"

    So it's a totally average and unintresting drive then? Another mass produced POS designed to get you from A to B without even thinking about what's in between. Why don't manufacturers put this technology on already decent cars and actually inspire people that enjoy driving 'in a sprited manor' to change to an alternative without having to shell out a left leg on a tesla roadster? At least it's better than a damn Prius though.

    1. The First Dave
      Boffin

      @AC

      My current car is a Fiesta, admittedly not the largest car on the market, but bigger than my first car, which was a Mk11 Escort. The Fiesta 'only' has a 1.25 litre engine, but it can top 100MPH, which this one apparently can't, so why the hell does this thing need a 1.4? Does that indicate that this thing weighs three tonnes or something? Given that my 1.25 is about double what I need to cruise at 70MPH, the power is only needed for acceleration, which in this case comes from the battery, which is never supposed to go below 20%, surely a 1L or similar should be enough to keep this charge when on the move?

      1. Nexox Enigma

        Meh

        """The Fiesta 'only' has a 1.25 litre engine, but it can top 100MPH, which this one apparently can't, so why the hell does this thing need a 1.4?"""

        The top speed is probably based on gearing more than power, and since it's a hybrid, and nobody is supposed to drive them quickly, it probably didn't make much sense to engineer it to do that sort of speed.

        The extra power from the 1.4, assuming it actually makes more than your reference 1.25, since displacement and power output aren't strictly related, probably goes to charge the battery so the engine can shut down

        Also, chances are, this hybrid, loaded with laptop batteries, weighs a bit more than your Focus, and something's got to be able get it up those hills.

        1. Mark Boothroyd

          Top speed

          The top speed is probably limited by the management system to keep the costs down.

          The faster you go, the more current the motor draws from the batteries, higher current means you need larger and heavier cables feeding from the battery to the motor, and also produces more heat from the batteries, which has to be managed somehow.

          Limiting the speed means the batteries, cables, control systems etc. only have to be rated to a specific level, this keeps costs and heat generation down.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Grenade

      Because...

      ...people driving in a "spirited manor [sic]" tend to wrap themselves or others round lamp posts.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Because?

        No they don't. OK so you get idiotic 18 year olds at it every friday night, but that's because they don't have the experience to read the road and know when it's safe to drive in a spirited manner. Furthermore most of them tend to be driving possibly the most mundane car on the road; the Vauxhall Corsa 1.2.

        The thing is a fun car doesn't have to be a fast car. Ever driven a Fiat Seicento Sporting or a classic Mini? Not fast, but enormous fun to drive and there is one main reason for this. Feedback. The driver can feel what's going on and so is involved in the experience of driving. Cars like that are arguably safer too. What a Mini, safe? Yes it is in terms of primary safety, when you can feel what all four wheels are doing you are much less likely to have an accident in the first place. Cars that isolate you from the outside world really need all their secondary safety devices, their air bags, cages and pretensioned belts are more likely to be called upon if the driver isn't made aware of everything that is going on.

        Almost everybody drives in a "spirited" manner from time to time, even if it's only when they are late for work. When you do feel the need you will be much safer in a car designed with it in mind than you will in a car designed to be no more interactive than a washing machine. The idea of the car as a domestic appliance is a very, very bad one even if it is a very popular one these days. Desinging your car to be no more challenging to use than your TV is a very bad idea in saferty terms. Press the wrong button on your remote and you might inconvenience yourself, make a similar mistake in your car and you could take out a school bus queue.

        All those secondary safety devices are surely a bad idea. Your multiple air bags, pretentioned seatbelts, safety cage and crumple zones will be of no comfort to the pedestrian you hit because you weren't really involved in the driving experience.

    3. Nexox Enigma

      No turbines.

      """Anyone fancy a gas turbine motor? -- we could fill up with JP1."""

      First off, thermodynamically speaking, the turbine cycle (can't remember what it's called) is limited to a lower efficiency than even the Otto cycle (petrol engine,) which is, in turn, lower than the Diesel cycle. Turbines are good for power to weight (since they're mostly made of empty space,) but since the engines are really tiny anyway, they probably won't be able to save enough weight to make up for their lack of efficiency.

      Second, a turbine could be easily made to run on diesel, or whatever else you wanted to feed into it - I've seen some that run on pulverized coal dust, though they tend to have soot and / clogging issues. In any case, diesel fuel isn't all that different from various turbine avgas formulations.

      A turbine would be nice and quiet though, plus you could get a nice "Danger: Jet Exhaust" sticker on that hybrid to make it look fast.

  19. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Happy

    Ultimately though

    I think a flywheel is *much* better behaved than a battery for a hybrid design. No real slow degradation modes and modern flywheel tech is high speed but lightweight and designed to fragment within the casing if all else fails.

    Still good start.

  20. MrT

    I've talked with Opel's R&D about this vehicle...

    They've been tested at over 135mph and this is even claimed in some promo material out there. The ulitmate capabilities of the drivetrain are not the reason they limit to 100mph.

    However, I was asking if they would produce a version with a 3-seat back bench option in place of the twin aircraft-style seats and they have confirmed that this would not be possible because of the T-battery, which runs up the centre and behind the rear seats. I had my deposit ready, but because this will only ever be a 4-seat vehicle it will not be an option to replace my current Vectra CDTi.

    "Don't worry, we are planning a larger E-REV to follow Ampera..." - eventually admitted that although this would be physically larger, it would still be another 4-seater. I'm not a fan of loser-cruisers, but it seems they're missing the point with this tech - the next vehicle should have been an E-REV version of the Zafira (even easier if Ampera already shares platform with the Astra range) - cut the emissions on the school run.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's that real world thing again

      Yup I spoke to one of their marketing guys who told me that, in the real world the vast majority of cars don't carry five people very often if at all, so the loss of the fifth seat doesn't matter. Funny isn't it that the same marketing men will tell us that having three three point seatbelts on the rear bench in other models is a major selling point? Strange also that they don't seem to think that they should actually build at least one EV model to suit people who do sometimes need to carry five.

      It's sadly predictable that the marketing droids will always tell us that almost anything the R&D men have decided to sacrifice won't be an issue for 99% of people. No so long ago there was a car that I quite liked, but on looking at it in the showroom I realised there was very little luggage capacity. The salesman told me that most buyers told them it wasn't a problem because they seldom carried much guff. Well of course they do you fuckwit, otherwise they wouldn't have bought it. It's the people who don't buy that you should be asking why they didn't buy it, not asking the people who did buy why they bought it.

      Or how about the iPhone 4 and it's antenna? Apple tell us it's not a problem because most people use a case or don't hold their phone that way. Well of course they do it's the only way to get their phone to work.

      1. MrT

        I even suggested...

        ... that they remove a few cells from the battery to lower the T-bar around the centre seat area to make the bench fit - would prob reduce elec range by about 3-4 miles, but at least I could fit the kids in. It's got less people capacity than our Peugeot 206... but if we're going down the CO2 per person I've taken a Citroen GS for a (short) drive with 12 in which must push a 4-up Ampera close for being eco friendy, if not quite so friend friendly...

        I quite like the new Meriva (it's roomy, *can seat 5*, and is brilliantly easy to access with those feature 'suicide doors'), but they've no plans for E-REV version of that either. It seems they think that they've got to pitch it at the middle management Audi market in value just to claw back profit, rather than going for the higher volume, lower profit per unit route that would benefit more people - remove the emissions from the school run and short shopping trips and things will be a lot more pleasant.

        It's an interesting vehicle, much more so than current hybrids because it offers a proper alternative tht's been thought through for today's infrastructure - and in the future it can be adapted to LPG or even hydrogen as a fuel source for the IC engine.

  21. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Waste of time

    Isn't the whole point of electric to reduce pollution and reduce reliance on oil?

    Petrol engine = pollution.

    Petrol engine needs oil.

    The whole idea with electric is you can recharge it using electricity which can be produced with numerous means. Petrol can only be made from oil.

    1. MrT
      Pint

      wider range of fuels

      Spark-ignition engines can run on all sorts of fuel, not just oil-based - wood alcohol or similar stuff derived from sugar cane is used in some world markets (Brazil, for example). BMW even adapted their V12 7-Series to run on hydrogen, and offered a limited number of drivers the chance to own one for a while as a test-bed, burning it directly in the engine instead of converting it to electricity in a fuel cell.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fuel Cells As Usual

    Seems nobody has brought up fuel cells this time.

    Usually when somebody mentions fuel cells somebody on here will start to list the shortcomings of hydrogen as a fuel. From the dangers of it to the environmental problems of using precious water to make it, not to mention the generation of the electricity needed to make it.

    OK they are problems, but the pro battery types who make these arguments seem to forget that batteries are much more of an environmental disaster than hydrogen, manufacturing and recycling is not exactly kind to the environment, and the electricity to charge them has to be generated just like it does to make hydrogen. Safety? Well hydrogen can go bang in a big way but we're not talking massive volumes of the stuff in the same way as, say, petrol. The volume of hydrogen used to cover a given mileage is much lower than the volume of fossil fuels used to cover the same mileage. The stuff doesn't need to be transported by road since it can be made on site at the filling station as long as you can get water to the site. Only relatively small storage tanks would be needed at the filling station as it would only be a buffer between the cracking plant and the pumps. Of course getting the water to the filling stations needn't be such a big problem. It doesn't have to be drinkable mains water (although it does need to be fairly clean) so it won't be causing a hose pipe ban. Laying pipes to the filling stations? Why bother? there would be plenty of redundant petrol tankers and their drivers out there. And don't forget that if the cars' store the exhaust water generated by their fuel cells they could dump it at the filling stations to be converted back into hydrogen. OK so I know it wouldn't be a lossless process, but it would significantly reduce the amount of water needed.

    So why are battery cars seen as a better alternative than hydrogen fuel cells? I can only assume that the battery manufacturing industry has a much larger lobbying organisation than the fuel cell industry.

    Oh and don't forget hydrogen fuel cells aren't the only fuel cells around. If hydrogen is such a problem for you then you could always try and alternative fuel.

    1. Chemist

      Re : Fuel Cells As Usual

      Unfortunately making hydrogen from water by electrolysis is only ~50% efficient even using high temp./pressure processes. Depending on how the electricity is generated the efficiency could be down to ~16% by the time the hydrogen is put into the vehicle ( less if it needs to be liquified)

      Fuel cells are only ~50% efficient so the overall efficiency would be ~~5%. Now I agree if the electricity came from renewables or nuclear there would be no CO2 but the electricity consumption would still be enormous for any sig. number of vehicles

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Batteries

        How efficient are batteries then?

        The interesting thing is that batteries get less efficient the faster you charge or discharge them. The particular problem here being that what most people see as the biggest problem on EVs is charge time. This is either because they want a car with very long range or because they can't charge overnight so need to be able to charge quickly at filling stations. The fun part about this being that if you want a fast charge you will pay more for a fillup than you would if you trickle charged.

        Long range means even an overnight charge would need to be at very high current. Many people will not be able to charge overnight because they park on street and don't have access to power. Don't give me that crap about installing loads of charging points on every street. who is going to pay for them? How is all the additional infrastucture going to be installed? Who's going to fund that? How will they be secured so that not just anybody can use the power and the person who does use it gets charged correctly? Even if you can answer all those questions, and you can't answer the one's about funding*, it will be a long, long, long time coming. A Hydrogen fuel cell infrastructure could be implemented much more quickly.

        And like I said it doesn't have to be hydrogen. You can build fuel cells to run on all sorts of stuff. Probably cow burps if you can find a way to harvest them.

        * In the words of the last government "there's no money left".

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Happy

        @Chemist

        "( less if it needs to be liquified)"

        When I looked for info on this I found an estimate that it would take 1/3 of the energy per Kg available in Hydrogen combustion to chill it to a liquid which might help your calculations.

        And not forgetting that at present Hydrogen filling stations in the US seem to convert LNG to Hydrogen in a catalyticaly assisted thermal process to make the Hydrogen. its role as a "Clean" fuel and energy carrier is *theoretical* at best.

  23. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Happy

    AC@11:51

    "Seems nobody has brought up fuel cells this time.

    Usually when somebody mentions fuel cells somebody on here will start to list the shortcomings of hydrogen as a fuel. From the dangers of it to the environmental problems of using precious water to make it, not to mention the generation of the electricity needed to make it."

    People (myself included) mention them because they are *all* valid points.

    I'll skip a re-cap of the physical properties that make Hydrogen a *very* bad energy storage medium which have been repeated at length and which you don't seem to understand.

    "The volume of hydrogen used to cover a given mileage is much lower than the volume of fossil fuels used to cover the same mileage."

    This suggests you don't understand the difference between mass (Kg) density (kg per m^3) and energy density (Mj per m^3). If you knew what you're talking about you'd know why you're wrong.

    What is your objective. No Carbon increase or re-cycle Carbon that's already in the air? Hydrogen is the only *fuel* that manage the former (no Carbon in it) while *lots* of options exist for the latter. Reduce re-fuel time compared to trickle charge? Some more modern battery chemistry/hardware designs already do. *Any* fuel cell tech should do this, such as Methanol,LNG LPG. Save natural resources? Well

    Batteries, fuel cells and flywheel storage systems are *all* viable methods of electricity storage but it's *how* they fitting into *existing* infrastructure and meet the needs of users that will determine *which* is successful.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice car

    Lots of heated discussions about elec vs petrol, failings of battery technology and so on, but capitalism always finds a way. The simple reality is that petrol is cheap. If you want the electric car idea to fly, gotta make petrol more expensive, and until someone does, there will always be an army of nae-sayers asking "Why the fuck bother?". Once petrol is expensive enough, the cheapest alternative will prevail (so long as law enforcement authorities don't think it'll rip holes in the space-time continuum).

    All this green stuff when sold from a financial POV is just nonsense anyway. There are two problems, if there is a saving, then punters will only have more money to spend on foreign holidays, plastic iPhones and so on, cancelling out any benefit. Second, if journeys get cheaper, people will only take more of them. You want to save the environment, the best approach is probably to go kill yourself.

    My advice? Stick with the petrol. Use it wisely. When it gets too expensive, find something cheaper, or work from home. I suspect in the days of horse-drawn carts, the early cars were a solution looking for a problem, and the 'leccy cars of today are bit like that. Perhaps sci-fi films are to blame.

    But if you insist....

    Lead-acid is nasty, but easy to recycle and the charging technology well understood, and we already have the infrastructure for this, a privately-owned car with 30 mile range is the best bet for the shopping/school trip coupled with a community-maintained petrol car pool for the longer ones. Virtually impossible to sell to the modern punter, but it's probably the greenest solution you can have right now.

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