Vauxhall is preparing to carry out the UK's longest run by an electric vehicle next week.
A prototype Ampera electric car will travel 170 miles from Vauxhall's UK base in Luton to the company's assembly plant at Ellesmere Port on Merseyside. This impressive feat – the Ampera's claimed total range is 350 miles – is made possible by the car's adoption of a small “range extender” petrol engine.
This promising technology, on which a number of other manufacturers are also working, should not be confused with a hybrid system like that fitted to the Toyota Prius where the petrol engine, when it comes into play, drives the car directly; rather, the Ampera's range extender is used to generate power that keeps the car's electric motors going once the 40 miles or so of range available from the mains-charged batteries are exhausted.
Vauxhall/Opel carried out a similar stunt a few months ago, when an Ampera was driven from Opel's German headquarters to the Geneva Motor Show. It's probably too much to hope that GM will use the occasion of the car's arrival at Ellesemere Port plant to announce that the Ampera will be manufactured there, a subject on which the company seems to have been teasing us for months. In any case, the Ampera is expected to go on sale in the UK in early 2012.
There is some firm good news for Ellesmere Port, though, with the announcement of the Sports Tourer estate version of the new Astra; the new model, to built at the UK plant alongside the existing hatchback version, will go on sale towards the end of the year.