A journey into the future? Electric car on trial

A journey into the future? Electric car on trial

Swapping an Audi for a Vauxhall Ampera

Last week I swapped my normal vehicle for an electric car, on loan from Vauxhall to our fleet department. I was keen to put the electric car through its paces to see if these vehicles have a role in helping us meet our target of reducing carbon emissions from business travel by 30% by 2016.

For those, not up to date with the latest eco-driving innovation: the Ampera is a plug-in electric vehicle with a back-up combustion engine as opposed to a hybrid vehicle that uses a combustion engine backed up by electrical assistance.

Driving more miles on less fuel

Driving more miles on less fuelThe fleet team are already searching out the most efficient vehicles on the market for our fleet; new Vauxhall Insignias will soon be available with emissions of 99 g/km, compared to the current models at 118 g/km.

But, as with many of our ambitious SustainAbilities targets, we need to look a little further into the future for innovative solutions, the Ampera offers 27g/km.

250 mpg – not bad!

I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of the Ampera. Last week I was mostly based at George Road so I used it for commuting and covered 183 miles, using the battery 75% of that time. My fuel economy never dipped below 150 mpg and by the time I gave it back was over 250, so it matches up to the manufacturer’s claims. And I have to say you wouldn’t know it was an electric vehicle over petrol unless you stuck your head out of the window.

A new style of driving

I also found it surprisingly easy to adapt my driving style to suit the car. A few people will be aware there’s a very long hill near my house, and I noticed this took its toll on the battery after I had set off. However, the Ampera recharges if you take your foot off the accelerator or if you brake, so on the way down at least some of this was replenished. New routes also opened up, getting to the office by the shorter route across town as opposed to the motorway wouldn’t be economic in my Audi, but in the Ampera I could use the battery and conserve fuel.

Inevitably you do need to use some fuel. On one of the test days I had to make lots of short journeys from home to the office to the station, back to the office and then home again. There simply wasn’t the time or infrastructure available to properly recharge the car’s batteries.

Where can I plug in my EV?

Which leads me to the problems I found… By far the biggest issue was that the supplied charging lead wouldn’t reach past my garage to the nearest plug. Vauxhall say you can’t use an extension lead, so I was only able to charge it in the garage at work, at premium electric rates. Can this offer any real monetary saving against more efficient diesel engines? There’s also the cost of installing the necessary charging infrastructure and the issue of who pays for the electricity. These are questions that we are hoping to be in a better position to answer by trialling the vehicle.

Disappointingly, it also failed the golf club test!

A car for the future…?

In summary though, once I had resisted the temptation to collect the neighbour’s milk bottles, I found the experience to be positive. Despite the charging issue, I would go as far to say that there is potential in future for a similar type of pool car for use by employees on short business trips, or those who live local to the office. What do you think?

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SustainAbilities – our response to the mounting environmental issues, social challenges and economic pressures that are rapidly changing the business landscape and redefining what is required for companies to be successful.


Ian Renhard

Ian Renhard - Managing Director, UK Construction. Ian is a Civil Engineer with a wealth of industry experience. He is Construction’s Board Champion for Sustainability and is responsible for leading the Construction Group and developing it’s strategic direction.