Why is the Vauxhall Ampera-e not coming to the UK?
The Vauxhall Ampera showed great promise, yet it lasted only two years in the UK market. That makes it all more disappointing that UK drivers are to be denied the opportunity to drive the next generation of electric vehicle from General Motors – the Ampera-e.
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Badged as an Opel throughout Europe, the Ampera-e is a full EV, rather than the range extender type of the first Ampera that was sold in the UK between 2012 and 2014. With a full charge and careful driving, GM claims it can cover 250 miles on a single charge and has a realistic average range of 185 miles. That puts it significantly ahead of the Nissan Leaf or BMW i3 by around 30 miles per charge.
The extra 30 miles on offer in the Ampera-e would definitely help overcome range anxiety
That kind of added range matters in the world of EVs where customer concern about running out of juice when nowhere near a plug is a lingering worry. The extra 30 miles on offer in the Ampera-e would definitely help overcome that range anxiety as it leaves more in reserve for daily driving and opens up the possibility of much longer trips being possible without playing battery charge bingo.
Quicker than a diesel
It’s also a pity we won’t see the Ampera-e in the UK as it looks set to be a good car to drive. The electric motor develops 201bhp and 266lb ft of shove, so it sees the Opel from 0-30mph in 3.2 seconds. Keep your foot planted and it’s a good deal quicker than many diesel-engined hatches and crossovers.
Then there’s the crisp looks of the Ampera-e. This isn’t some oddball trying to wear its eco-credentials on its sleeve but a handsome crossover style of machine that should look good wherever you use it.
So, why no Ampera-e for the UK when we’re the fastest growing market for EVs in Europe and one of the largest for volume too? GM says the Ampera-e has not been designed for right-hand drive markets and that is that.
It also seems the UK will be doomed to miss out on other EV models from GM just as more car makers are committing models to our shores
Given the Ampera-s is based on a wholly new platform that is purpose-designed for the EV and is set to underpin other EV models from GM, this appears like madness. It also seems the UK will be doomed to miss out on other EV models from GM just as more car makers are committing models to our shores. For instance, Hyundai is just launching its Ioniq over here and says the UK is a key market to succeed in to gain credibility as well as sales.
That’s not something GM has bothered with, unfortunately for us. Instead, the Ampera-e platform is for left-hookers only and, as we know, there is large customer resistance to vehicles where the steering wheel is on the wrong side.
GM also states this new platform cannot be re-engineered during its lifetime to accommodate right-hand drive markets such as the UK, Australia, Japan and South Africa. All of these countries have been keen advocates of EVs, so this seems all the more contrary to ignore them.
It would be unfair to lay any blame for this situation at the door of Vauxhall. The British arm of GM has campaigned to have the Ampera-e as a model in its range and with right-hand drive. Not working with Vauxhall is a short-sighted mistake in our view.
For starters, there is the straightforward business case that UK drivers are becoming more accepting of EVs faster than most other European countries. Sales are on the up and the charging network is growing rapidly in sympathy with the increasing number of EVs on our roads.
The UK government is fully behind the expansion of the EV charging network and sales growth for this sector. The extended Plug-In Car Grant is evidence of this and has made it possible for many to drive an EV that might have otherwise looked elsewhere. There are also tax incentives for company car drivers to choose an EV, so there is an extremely warm welcome for any EV on this side of the English Channel.
Let’s not forget, either, that Vauxhall’s involvement in the Ampera-e would only be to the good of all who drive it. Vauxhall rightly insists on testing and final set-up of all the cars it sells on UK roads. So, rather than the often poorly damped and sprung cars that Europeans get with vague steering, we are fortunate to be offered GM cars that ride, handle and steer with panache. You only have to look at the current Corsa and Astra models to see this arrangement works well.
On the plus side of the Ampera-e situation, we may not be given the chance to drive it in the UK, but Vauxhall says it is going to trial the car here and show it to customers. This is a way to build awareness, if not sales, and generate some pressure on parent company GM to include right-hand drive engineering in the next generation of Ampera models.
GM has missed a golden opportunity with Ampera-e to create a strong presence in the UK EV market and instead has condemned Vauxhall to watching from the side lines as other companies forge ahead with EV models.
Where would it fit?
This is doubly frustrating as the Ampera-e would sit very comfortably between the Corsa and Astra in size, much like the Kia Niro nestles between Cee’d and Sportage. As we know, crossover cars are the ones customers want right now, so an EV version would be in a prime position to appeal to a large tranche of customers.
In the meantime, we can only hope the promise the Ampera and now the Ampera-e have shown translates into a right-hand drive model in the next stage of GM’s electric vehicle plans. Pay attention General Motors: ignore the UK at your peril.
It might not be available in the UK, but here’s the key facts you need to know about the Ampera-e: