The Vauxhall Ampera pioneers range-extending drivetrains on the UK market. It’s essentially an electric car with a back-up petrol engine. The 1.4 doesn’t directly power the wheels; instead once you’ve exhausted the Ampera’s claimed 50-mile electric-only range, and the batteries are flat, it kicks in to maintain their minimum charge and act as a generator to power the electric motor. The result of this is a claimed equivalent fuel consumption figure of 235mpg and CO2 emissions of only 27g/km.
As with the Toyota Prius, though, the Ampera is very expensive to buy in the first place – even after the £5,000 Government electric car grant, you’re looking at £30,000 at least.
That price buys a hi-tech interior with lots of equipment, including two seven-inch colour display screens, although the boot offers only 300 litres of space – not a lot for a car with such large dimensions. The interior is strictly for four, but eight airbags and ESP provide strong safety credentials, while the battery pack comes with an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty. However, only a minority of drivers will be able to embrace this new technology because of the price it commands.