Breath of fresh air as Ampera sparks the electric charge.
BRITAIN'S motorists will be in for a treat when Vauxhall's car of the future, the Ampera E-REV, arrives here in early 2012.
Tell someone a car runs on battery power and they are bound to feel sceptical - is it reliable, will it run out of charge, is there much performance? Well, in every area, the vibes are positive - not only that the family-size Vauxhall with the cool coup looks will prove a winner, but also that it will be built at the company's Ellesmere Port plant, in Cheshire.
The Ampera this week completed the longest single road trip by an electric car in the UK, 175 miles from Vauxhall's HQ at Luton to Ellesmere Port.
Every mile was electrically driven, yet on reaching its destination the car's range would have allowed it to comfortably manage the return journey. And, just minutes after the plant's new director, Tony Francavilla, hopped out of the car at the end of the Astra production line, I took over the driving seat as the first journalist to test the prototype model around the 440-acre site where it will most likely be produced.
Make no mistake, the Ampera is a striking vehicle. It's a very stylish, low slung, five-door four-seater, the stand-out feature being its boomerang headlight clusters.
As a prototype, one of only two in this country and both built in the USA, the Ampera had a few rough edges, but you couldn't fault the way it drives.
Smooth, positive and comfortable, perhaps the most stunning quality of the Ampera is its low-down torque and overall performance.
This is a genuinely quick vehicle, with 0-60mph acceleration in nine seconds and the capability to reach 100mph. The car's wheels are driven by electricity alone and can manage trips of up to 40 miles on power supplied by the lithium-ion battery. With some 80% of British motorists driving less than that distance in an average day, it means low running costs and zero emissions.
For longer trips, the Ampera's range extender engages - the name E-REV stands for Extended Range Electric Vehicle. When the battery is depleted, a 1.4-litre petrol engine-driven generator cuts in to provide electricity to drive the motor for another 310 miles.
In this mode, only 40g/km of CO is produced, so the Vauxhall's green credentials are impeccable.
And, when the battery needs re-charging, you are looking at a three-hour process from a standard 240v mains outlet, at a cost of about 80p.
Tony Francavilla is optimistic the Ampera, which is based on the Astra platform, will be built at the Cheshire plant.
He said: "Ellesmere Port has a proud record and we are just beginning to build the early versions of the estate Astra Sport Tourer.
"No decision has yet been made as to whether the Ampera will be built in Europe, but the workforce here is right behind the car. It's a striking vehicle, and I would love to buy one if it was available."
As regards cost, the Ampera is likely to be priced at around the pounds 25,000 mark, and hopefully there will be incentives.
The previous Government pledged considerable support for developing electric cars and said there would be subsidies of up to pounds 5,000 for those willing to buy one.
Either way, the Ampera looks the real deal - it's a breath of fresh air.
The Ampera is a striking vehicle - a very stylish, low-slung, five-door four-seater