Going Green in A Vauxhall Ampera #GoUltraLow
I’ve been driving a red Vauxhall Ampera for 5 weeks this summer as part of an awareness campaign to get the word out about new electric vehicles. But whilst I’ve been in a red car, I’ve actually been going green!
Going green, making other road users ‘green’ with envy and also ‘saving green’ too as there are some serious cost savings to be had with an electric car!
The Ampera is electric with the back up of a petrol engine to increase the range, so I have reduced my carbon footprint whilst driving this vehicle, as the car has zero emissions! What this means in terms of money, is that there’s no road tax to pay on electric cars (or ‘ultra low emission vehicles’) because road tax is calculated on fuel and engine type as well as CO2 emissions.
Further savings can be made if you visit London regularly, because electric cars attract a 100% discount on the Congestion Charge fee (subject to an annual £10 registration fee). There are savings to be had with free parking and free public charging in selected locations, and even though these cars cost more to purchase upfront, the Government wants to encourage uptake on these vehicles so have introduced a Plug-in Grant to give new owners 25% off the purchase price of an electric car to a maximum of £5,000.
As a busy mum, running around after the children and doing short journeys in the week and often longer family outings at the weekend, I had chance to figure out some good points and bad points about the practicalities of running a car like this, so let’s share below:
Let’s start with the good stuff! The car attracted a lot of admiring glances and people wanted to talk to me about it and ask questions, when they saw me with the vehicle. I was approached by other parents at school, the postman and a shopper in the town centre one day, all to ask questions about what kind of car it was and how I find it. It seems to get noticed, for positive reasons!
I love the DAB digital radio in the dashboard. I used to live in London and when I did, Heart was my favourite radio station but I couldn’t listen to it when I moved to Yorkshire in my own car. Since having this vehicle I’ve been able to listen to Heart once again!
I adore the fact that I practically have not had to set foot in a petrol station for weeks! Most of my journeys have been local so I can do them using the electric engine and then I can charge up in my own home, meaning I am in control of my own ‘car powering’! No standing in queues to pay, no having to wet wipe the petrol smell off my hands, no having to find the time to go and re-fuel when I’m out and about. I do it all in the space and privacy of my home, when it suits me!
Sometimes I forget to put the car on charge. If I’m arriving home with hungry kids and bags of shopping, my main priority is getting inside and sorting everyone out so I lock the car for the night, go in the house and don’t think about it. I’ve been caught out twice when the next day I find I have 8 miles of battery life left. It’s not been a big issue as during the week I’m mainly local anyway and so after a school run (which is less than a mile) I can get back home and re-charge. I suspect I’d get into a proper routine if I had the car for longer but I do find I have to ‘think’ about this car more than my normal vehicle.
I want the charging station cord to be a bit longer to give me a bit more leeway in the position I have to park the car in to charge it. I normally reverse into the drive for a faster ‘getaway’ but when I’m charging I need to drive in front first to have the socket near the charger for plugging in! I’d also like to have a mechanism on the charging unit so that you press a button to wind the cord back in and store neatly – just like it does on my steam generator iron. The way I store the charger cord currently is to manually loop it around the wall mounted box, and due to space reasons I keep catching the cord on things like the bikes and tools I keep in my garage. As we all know, space is at a premium in many family homes, so design touches like this would just make the charging experience a little more pleasing.
Other stuff I’ve learned:
There are ‘three Ts’ affecting battery life: Temperature, Technique, Terrain.
You get more battery life in warm weather, and your driving style and the roads you are driving on all determine how much you will get from the battery. I have found that on normal roads doing short runs necessary to family life, I get an average of 38 miles from a full charge and it takes under 4 hours to charge the battery from zero to full. I like that the car is nippy to drive so when I need to get a bit of speed on I can but on the whole it is a very calm and trouble free ride.
I don’t have personal experience of this as I didn’t have the car long enough to take a vacation from it, but I asked the question ‘what happens if you go on holiday and park at the airport for 2 weeks?’ I wanted to know if the electric battery drains if you are not using. I was advised by Vauxhall that you won’t notice a significant drop in power. You may notice a slight drop off if the vehicle is left for longer – say 6-8 weeks, but not for a 2 week holiday. Plus with the Ampera, you have the backup of the petrol engine, so you don’t have to worry, it will still work.
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 was loaned to us for 6 weeks so that we could test how it fits into our lives and so I could produce three blog posts about my honest experiences. I was one of five bloggers in the #GoUltraLow campaign.