Driving down Electric Avenue – My year of electric driving

oliver General, Technology/ Energy Saving

It’s coming up for a year since I started driving my extended range electric car- the sleek and futuristic Vauxhall Ampera, I’ve got to say that I don’t know if I can face going back to a conventional gas guzzler.

My and My Ampera

If you haven’t had the chance to drive in an electric car – then do!

The experience is initially quite surreal – near silent running except for the sound of the tyres on the road, ultra smooth acceleration, and of course, visits to the petrol station become a thing of the past.

What I have found most impressive is how it has totally changed my driving style. We all like to think we’re good drivers, but the Ampera really does help you to drive better-  communicating the impact of aggressive acceleration and hard braking as well as an overall assessment of your driving style at the end of each journey. This could sound rather nagging but since it means I can squeeze every spare mile out of the 45 mile battery range then I’m more than happy to be told how to accept a little positive criticism!


With the UK in a slow start to the transition to alternative forms of transport, the extended range dual-fuel nature of the Ampera suits my driving needs well. 95% of the journeys that I carry out are covered by the battery range of around 45 miles (the average trip in the UK is just 7 miles) beyond that the petrol engine seamlessly kicks in to power the batteries giving me a further 300 miles.

Unlike conventional hybrids which use a battery to support a petrol engine at low speeds, the Ampera primarily drives on its battery, using the petrol to keep it topped up over long distances. Excellent overall fuel efficiency means road trips across the UK to Norfolk, Devon and Cornwall can be at the fraction of the price of putting the family on the train. And of course, it’s always exciting to visit places like the Eden project where we had a great day whilst charging the car up at their dedicated charging station.

In fact, I can plug the Ampera in almost anywhere – but if you have a driveway or garage you can have a charging point installed at your home for free. They’re worth around £1200 but you can take advantage of a government scheme that runs until December 2014 to pay the full cost of yours. British Gas are just one of the accredited suppliers – there is more information available at the government’s website.

Our friends are rightly jealous of our futuristic driving journeys – not only do we not have to pay road tax, but across this years 4500 miles of driving we have only used 16 gallons of fuel achieving around 200 miles per gallon of petrol used – even better (if that’s possible) is that I power my Ampera directly from the 3.8 Kw photovoltaic panel system on the roof of my home – using and storing excess electricity created on a sunny day.

111121 pv pictures 002

By the end of the year there’ll be more than 700,000 plug-in electric vehicles on the world’s roads and thousands more charging points to add to the around 5000 already operating in the UK. The market in the UK is growing steadily for good reason – I’m saving on car tax, congestion charging and around £2000 per year on fuel. Right now the government is offering £5000 off the price of new plug-in cars too. The charging network is rapidly expanding and with the Ampera I can travel as far as I like.

Click image for a map of UK charging points.

Of course the key barrier to the adoption of electric cars is their higher purchase price but the benefits also exist in the longterm – be it  lower running costs, quieter roads and cleaner air for everybody. Driving an electric car  is certainly part of the future of my personal transport plan, particularly if it means i can keep driving with a cleaner environmental conscience.