Europcar has announced a deal with Vauxhall and its sister brand Opel to introduce the Ampera electric range extender car to its European rental fleet later this year.
Germany will be first to offer customer hire of Opel Amperas in November 2011, followed by Belgium and the Netherlands. France, Italy, Portugal and Spain will follow with Europcar’s United Kingdom branches getting Vauxhall Amperas from the beginning of 2012.
The Ampera is a range extender electric vehicle in the same vein as the Chevrolet Volt on which it is based. Although it runs off a 16 kWh lithium-ion battery pack which can be charged up from the mains over night, when this gets close to depletion during normal operation a 1.4 lite turbo petrol engine kicks in to keep it charged. The petrol engine doesn’t power the car’s wheels directly, only being used as a generator rather than for direct motive power.
The battery pack is connected to 111 kW/150 hp electric motors to deliver between 30 and 50 miles of pure electric operation with zero emissions when fully charged. With the petrol engine assisting and a full tank of unleaded the Ampera can cover over 300 miles before needing a top-up — and a visit to a petrol station is a much easier and quicker exercise than recharging the batteries, of course, enabling Vauxhall to pitch the car as an EV without ‘range anxiety’ (the fear you’ll be stranded when you drain the batteries).
Provisionally the Ampera has achieved 175mpg in European tests, although no CO2 figures are available.
Although it drives like pretty much any other car (noise aside), Europcar is going to take 10-15 minutes for customer handover to accommodate the key differences. This will include showing rental drivers how to charge the battery from the mains, an explanation of energy consumption of the car and its energy efficiency displays. Additionally, specially trained Europcar staff will provide advice on energy-efficient driving in battery operation and how to recuperate energy when braking.
If you want to buy the Ampera rather than rent (no prices for the latter have been given) then the car will cost £28,995 on the road after the Government’s £5,000 Plug In car grant has been applied. It goes on sale at the end of 2011.