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Beyond batteries.

Byline: MAXINE ASHFORD

THERE''S one word that perfectly sums up the Vauxhall Ampera - Europe's first extended range electric vehicle - electrifying.

For this five-door four-seater promises electric-powered motoring in all driving conditions and it easily delivers on all counts.

But that's not all. The Ampera looks great, is packed to bursting with eye-catching technology and goes like the wind too.

Boasting groundbreaking technology, the Ampera's wheels are electrically driven at all times. A lithium-ion battery pack feeds an advanced electric drive unit which can deliver up to 50 miles of pure electric driving with zero emissions.

But, unlike other EVs there is no range anxiety because for longer journeys there is the range extender - a 1.4-litre petrol engine which powers the electric motor and can result in a further 310 miles of travel.

Initial figures show the Ampera will achieve 175mpg and emit less than 40g/km in carbon dioxide emissions.

The Ampera takes approximately four hours to charge using a normal household 13amp socket. It is estimated 80 per cent of motorists drive 40 miles or less a day and that distance can easily be achieved in pure EV form.

Another feature that really impresses is the Ampera's driving modes. There's normal and sport for everyday driving, but in addition there is a mountain mode for extreme climbs and a hold setting.

This hold function can be used to store the charge in the battery which can be invaluable if the car is to be driven into a congestion charge area later on where zero emissions means zero expense.

First impressions are paramount when attracting new customers and the Ampera is a very attractive vehicle.

It has the sleek looks of a sports saloon with 17-inch alloys, 'boomerang' light clusters housing ice-blue LED daytime running lights, aerodynamic door mirrors and the new-look Vauxhall Griffin on the front grille.

Vauxhall believes the vehicle's advanced aerodynamics has added a further eight miles to the car battery's driving range.

And if the exterior doesn't blow you away, then take a seat in spaceship Ampera, because long gone are dials, gauges and needles and, in their place, two 7-inch interactive high definition colour screens.

The first displays vital driving information such as speed, driving efficiency, battery pack state of charge, electric driving range, warning lights etc. The second screen offers touch-screen options and is the main infotainment centre.

Elsewhere, the Ampera is kitted out in fine leather, it has heated seats and all the luxurious touches we have come to expect these days, including a fantastic BOSE sound system.

The vehicle can carry four adults in comfort and there's ample room to store any luggage requirements. The rear seats can also fold flat to increase load capacity.

So, the Ampera seems to have it all, but what about performance? Once again, it delivers.

The ride in both electric and range-extended modes is smooth, responsive, comfortable and very quiet with virtually no road surface noise.

Road-holding is excellent and acceleration through the automatic transmission exceptionally slick. Parking is made simpler thanks to a reversing camera.

The Ampera has a top speed of 100mph and reaches 0-62mph in about nine seconds.

If I were to pick fault with the Ampera then visibility is slightly impaired due to a large windscreen pillar.

And some drivers may find the two display screens a little too much of a distraction, although I found them quite quirky.

As one would expect, the Ampera boasts excellent safety specifications, including anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, traction control, stability control, numerous airbags and a massive battery.

There will also be an app for smart phone owners to help find charging stations, your car, receive accident assistance and much more.

The vehicle is priced at pounds 28,999 which is inclusive of the Government's pounds 5,000 plug-in car grant and it comes with Vauxhall's lifetime warranty (eight years/100,000 miles for the battery).

How is it powered? ? The Ampera's wheels are powered by an electric motor at all times. ? Lithium-ion batteries power the motor for up to 50 miles of pure electric driving.

. ? A 1.4 lite petrol engine can generate power to keep the electric motor going for a further 310 miles. ? The batteries can be charged in around four hours from a domestic power socket.

CAPTION(S):

[bar] LOOKING GOOD: Aerodynamics help the battery range of the new Vauxhall Ampera
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Jul 22, 2011
Words:733
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