Family Driving in the Vauxhall Ampera. On this 6 week trial run of the car, I’ve mainly used the vehicle for short journeys about town – usually the school run and supermarket! But now we have been for a weekend break in the car so I can give you a better idea of what it is like when travelling a longer distance.
When this car is fully charged up, it gives me around 40 miles of driving range on electric, but this is backed up by a petrol tank which takes unleaded fuel, so the ‘range anxiety’ of being caught away from home with no charging point is removed. When I first took delivery of the vehicle, I was slightly worried about having to find a charge point when out and about or becoming ‘stranded’ with no way to power up my car, but this is the beauty of the Ampera- that it does have a fuel tank too so it is just like any other petrol car that you can trust to get you home! One of the readers who commented on my last post pointed out that the point of the Ampera is to use less fuel – not to avoid fuel altogether, and I found this reassuring ahead of a weekend break that my family had planned to take, where I knew I couldn’t get there on electric alone.
There are some good points and some bad points to this car from my experience as a family driver. I love the car’s eco-credentials, the zero emissions and the fact that I don’t have to re-fuel as often. In fact, we have put a total of £35 worth of petrol in this car in the last month and have done all our regular journeys plus a weekend break from Yorkshire to Worcestershire. In my usual car, it requires approx £65 of diesel every 10 days or so, saving me an impressive £160 in fuel costs so far. However I also have to factor in the electricity I’ve used. I’ve just increased my electricity payment for the last month by £10 to cover the extra useage I’ve had in July so by my very rough calculations, I have saved approx £150 in costs over the last month. If you are looking into the costs for yourself, I’d advise you to visit the Go Ultra Low website and do a bit of investigation into the running costs. They will be different for everyone and depends on how you use the vehicle and your individual needs.
My experience of the car has provided some negative points too. I had a stressful journey a few weeks ago because of the in-car sat nav (more on this in a moment!) and I feel that the boot space in the Ampera isn’t as big as I’d like.
We have just come back from a weekend at Camp Bestival where we stayed in ‘Boutique camping’ which means we didn’t have to put up our own tent – it was already done. We did however take with us our windbreaker, camping stove, 4 camping chairs, folding picnic table and chair set plus a bag with all our clothes and shoes. The Ampera boot couldn’t handle it all. This was before we’d been to the supermarket to stock up on food, beers and other items necessary for a music festival!
On this occasion, we decided to take our own car which has ample space inside. In hindsight, it is just as well that we did as I forgot about the bumpy terrain when entering the festival car park. The festival is set in a field, in the grounds of a castle and cars are directed to the nearest car park to where their camping pitch is. The ground dips up and down and this would have been a problem in the Ampera which has a low front bumper. I was warned at the vehicle handover to go steady over road bumps where there is traffic calming in place on normal highways as it could scrape the low front bumper (the ‘skirt’ bit under the front of the car – set back a bit). It is an extra part that is in addition to the actual front bumper if you see what I mean! Have a look at this picture of the car below to see the part I’m referring to…
If we’d have taken the Ampera to the festival I’d have been terrified about damaging this low front bumper so I was happier in my own car with a more raised suspension.
The other bad point is the in-car sat nav with this vehicle. I hate it. I really rely on Sat Nav in my own vehicle, I’m often out meeting people and travelling to places that I’ve never been before so last month when I had a meeting in Lancashire, I put the postcode into the Sat Nav and expected to be told which way to go. The Sat Nav woman said “Guidance will start when you join the highlighted route!” Eh?! Isn’t Sat Nav supposed to tell you how to get to the route? Isn’t that the point? I had to set off blind, in the direction that I thought would be the best until the Sat Nav woman started to give me direction. For me this was a massive downer. I’d been loving the car till this point but I’m a busy mum, I don’t have time for things that hinder me rather than help me and I’m afraid this hindered.
The sat nav was equally as clueless when I was setting off back to collect the kids from school and this time it was even more stressful. I have to get to school on time for my kids. It isn’t acceptable to be late, I’m not having my child be the last to be collected and I’m never late. However the sat nav told me it would take 57 minutes to get ‘home’ (I checked when I was at the start of my meeting so I knew how long I had to leave to get back to school on time). I left my meeting at the right time, put the postcode for home back into the Sat Nav and was told that guidance would be given when I join the highlighted route. But I was in unfamiliar territory. I’d never been to that place before so I set off in the direction I *thought* was ok but then the Sat Nav added 10 minutes onto my journey and this meant I arrived at the school gate sweating, flustered and by the skin of my teeth. Not much fun at all. If Vauxhall wants some feedback for improvement then PLEASE get a better sat nav system. I am missing my usual TomTom.
But I feel that there are some things that could be improved for family motoring. This car would suit a city dweller – especially someone who visits London a lot as Go Ultra Low cars are exempt from road tax and from the London congestion charge which is a massive plus point.
The Vauxhall Ampera is just one of the #GoUltraLow cars involved with this blogger campaign. You can learn more about the other vehicles and how these mummy bloggers got on with their cars by visiting their blogs.
The car goes back to Vauxhall soon so I am enjoying the last part of my trial. All of the Vauxhall Ampera posts I have written are here
For more information about the cost savings, performance and benefits of ultra low emission vehicles, visit the Go Ultra Low website
Disclosure: This Vauxhall Ampera is on loan to us for 6 weeks so that we can test how it fits into our lives and I can report back with my honest opinions as part of the #GoUltraLow campaign.