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Opel ampera-e

Vauxhall confirms Britain DENIED ‘class-leading’ new 250-mile Ampera-e electric car

Opel ampera-eVauxhall’s American parent General Motors has not bothered to engineer the impressive new Ampera-e electric car for right-hand drive, meaning the “class-leading” EV will NOT be sold in Britain.

However, this isn’t stopping the British brand demonstrating the new EV, which will make its European debut at the 2016 Paris Motor Show later this month, to UK buyers.

Boasting an official NEDC electric range of more than 250 miles – and a real-world range of more than 185 miles – the new Ampera-e will be launched in Europe as a left-hand drive Opel from 2017. Not investing to engineer it for right-hand drive means the current model will, alas, not be available to British customers.

But Vauxhall is still “committed to having a future EV presence in its range,” said the firm’s chairman and MD Rory Harvey, so “we will be evaluating LHD cars from next spring and demonstrating them to clients”. Presumably also feeding back to North America the frustration that one of Britain’s largest car brands is denying them a potentially market-leading EV…

Opel ampera-e

GM’s decision not to engineer the advanced, roomy and pretty-looking Ampera-e for right-hand drive is particularly frustrating given how the Nissan Leaf, Britain’s best-selling EV, is built here in the UK. The Leaf was revised last year to boost its battery range but the ultra-advanced new Ampera-e beats even that – and the range of the latest range-extended Nissan Leaf.

“The fact that Ampera-e is not an eco-luxury or second car for customers broadens its appeal greatly,” said Harvey, “but it’s obviously vital that the car we sell in our market is right-hand drive, and that won’t be available in the current generation.”

You sense even Vauxhall is frustrated by its parent firm’s cost-cutting engineering decision: here’s hoping the firm’s evaluations in Europe’s second-largest new car market bears fruit for future generations…

Opel ampera-e

Vauxhall confirms Britain DENIED 'class-leading' new 250-mile Ampera-e electric car

Opel ampera-eVauxhall’s American parent General Motors has not bothered to engineer the impressive new Ampera-e electric car for right-hand drive, meaning the “class-leading” EV will NOT be sold in Britain.

However, this isn’t stopping the British brand demonstrating the new EV, which will make its European debut at the 2016 Paris Motor Show later this month, to UK buyers.

Boasting an official NEDC electric range of more than 250 miles – and a real-world range of more than 185 miles – the new Ampera-e will be launched in Europe as a left-hand drive Opel from 2017. Not investing to engineer it for right-hand drive means the current model will, alas, not be available to British customers.

But Vauxhall is still “committed to having a future EV presence in its range,” said the firm’s chairman and MD Rory Harvey, so “we will be evaluating LHD cars from next spring and demonstrating them to clients”. Presumably also feeding back to North America the frustration that one of Britain’s largest car brands is denying them a potentially market-leading EV…

Opel ampera-e

GM’s decision not to engineer the advanced, roomy and pretty-looking Ampera-e for right-hand drive is particularly frustrating given how the Nissan Leaf, Britain’s best-selling EV, is built here in the UK. The Leaf was revised last year to boost its battery range but the ultra-advanced new Ampera-e beats even that – and the range of the latest range-extended Nissan Leaf.

“The fact that Ampera-e is not an eco-luxury or second car for customers broadens its appeal greatly,” said Harvey, “but it’s obviously vital that the car we sell in our market is right-hand drive, and that won’t be available in the current generation.”

You sense even Vauxhall is frustrated by its parent firm’s cost-cutting engineering decision: here’s hoping the firm’s evaluations in Europe’s second-largest new car market bears fruit for future generations…

We’re not buying enough electric cars

Smart electric drive

The government is unlikely to meet its climate change targets and it’s all our fault. Put simply, we’re not buying enough electric cars.

Generous subsidies aren’t enough of an incentive for us to buy EVs in the numbers expected, as Britain struggles to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 compared with 1990 levels.

In basic terms, around 60% of all cars and lorries on the roads of Britain must be all-electric by the year 2030. Crucially, ultra-low emission vehicles should make up 9% of the overall fleet by the start of the next decade.

Mary Creagh, who chairs the environmental audit committee, said: “We need 9% of all new cars to be ultra-low emission vehicles by 2020 if we’re going to meet our climate change targets at the lowest cost to the public. But the department’s forecasts show it will get only half way to this target.”

The Department for Transport (DfT) expects between 3% and 7% of cars to be electric by the end of the decade.

At present, electric vehicles account for less than 1% of new car sales, despite the government offering up to £4,500 towards the cost of an EV. Part of the problem is the lack of a charging infrastructure, with the majority of public charging points found in London.

Mrs Creagh went on to say: “This failure risks making it more expensive to meet our long-term carbon reduction targets. With no strategy, we have no confidence that the DfT will meet this target.”

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), told the Guardian that ‘manufacturers were investing billions of pounds in developing new electric and hybrid vehicles’ and pointed to the increase in the number of electric vehicles available to the public.

Last month, campaign group Go Ultra Low argued that motorists in the UK are buying more electric vehicles than ever, with year-to-date electric car registrations up 31.8% compared with the first six months of 2015.

Close to 70,000 units have been registered since the government introduced its Plug-in Car Grant in January 2011. The Nissan Leaf remains the most popular all-electric vehicle, with 2,336 registrations in the first half of 2016.

The availability of the Plug-in Grant has been extended to March 2018, by which time we’ll know if Britain is any closer to meeting its emissions targets. Don’t hold your breath.

We're not buying enough electric cars

Smart electric drive

The government is unlikely to meet its climate change targets and it’s all our fault. Put simply, we’re not buying enough electric cars.

Generous subsidies aren’t enough of an incentive for us to buy EVs in the numbers expected, as Britain struggles to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 compared with 1990 levels.

In basic terms, around 60% of all cars and lorries on the roads of Britain must be all-electric by the year 2030. Crucially, ultra-low emission vehicles should make up 9% of the overall fleet by the start of the next decade.

Mary Creagh, who chairs the environmental audit committee, said: “We need 9% of all new cars to be ultra-low emission vehicles by 2020 if we’re going to meet our climate change targets at the lowest cost to the public. But the department’s forecasts show it will get only half way to this target.”

The Department for Transport (DfT) expects between 3% and 7% of cars to be electric by the end of the decade.

At present, electric vehicles account for less than 1% of new car sales, despite the government offering up to £4,500 towards the cost of an EV. Part of the problem is the lack of a charging infrastructure, with the majority of public charging points found in London.

Mrs Creagh went on to say: “This failure risks making it more expensive to meet our long-term carbon reduction targets. With no strategy, we have no confidence that the DfT will meet this target.”

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), told the Guardian that ‘manufacturers were investing billions of pounds in developing new electric and hybrid vehicles’ and pointed to the increase in the number of electric vehicles available to the public.

Last month, campaign group Go Ultra Low argued that motorists in the UK are buying more electric vehicles than ever, with year-to-date electric car registrations up 31.8% compared with the first six months of 2015.

Close to 70,000 units have been registered since the government introduced its Plug-in Car Grant in January 2011. The Nissan Leaf remains the most popular all-electric vehicle, with 2,336 registrations in the first half of 2016.

The availability of the Plug-in Grant has been extended to March 2018, by which time we’ll know if Britain is any closer to meeting its emissions targets. Don’t hold your breath.

Tesla Model S

Tesla has launched the fastest car in the world

Tesla Model STesla has launched a new version of the Model S saloon that it claims is the fastest volume production car in the world.

Thanks to a bigger 100 kWh battery, the new Model S P100D with Ludicrous mode can accelerate from 0-60mph in a scant 2.5 seconds – placing it just behind the LaFerrari and Porsche 918 Spyder.

But as those two hypercars were both limited-production models and are also not actually in production anymore, the firm is grabbing the claim that its new Model S is the fastest-accelerating volume production car in the world… ever.

It’s not just about speed either. The larger battery pack extends the range to a hefty 380 miles on the official European NEDC drive cycle, supported by a 315-mile claimed range when tested to the stricter U.S. EPA cycle.

This makes it the world’s first EV to go beyond 300 miles and, thus, the longest-range production electric car yet launched. “By far,” adds Tesla.

The new battery pack, which costs $10,000 (£7,500) extra new or $20,000 (£15,000) for existing P90D Ludicrous owners to upgrade, is also available in the Model X SUV: that now does 0-60mph in 2.9 seconds.

Tesla chief Elon Musk has described the new battery pack as a “milestone”: the cell chemistry is the same and it takes up the same space as the existing battery, but is now able to store much more energy.

“The Tesla Model S P100D is now faster in a straight line than it would be if you dropped it out of a plane,” Musk retweeted.

Go Ultra Low reports rising EV sales in the UK

Electric car sales still growing fast in UK

Go Ultra Low reports rising EV sales in the UKElectric and plug-in car sales grew by almost a third in the first half of 2016, with registrations of over 19,200 British EVs setting yet another British electric car high.

It seems things are picking up as the months tick on, too: in the last quarter, sales were up 38%.

The latest figures mean electric and plug-in car sales have grown for 22 months in a row. Best-sellers include the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Motoring Research is running as a long-termer, plus the Nissan LEAF (still Britain’s best-selling full EV) and newer entrants such as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class PHEV.

The government Plug-in Car Grant is helping drive EV growth, say analysts. Almost 70,000 electric-capable cars have now been sold through the Plug-in Car Grant since it was introduced in 2011.

The latest iteration of the scheme offers buyers of sub-50g/km models with an EV range of at least 70 miles an allowance of £4,500; those with lesser ranges, or emissions between 50-75g/km, get £2,500 off the car’s list price.

The Go Ultra Low organisation said government support “has been crucial to driving the success of electric vehicles in the UK”. But it’s not just the Plug-in Car Grant; on top of it are “tax benefits that could be worth thousands over the life of the car such as the lowest rates of Vehicle Excise Duty and company car tax, as well as support for home and public charging infrastructure”.

Transport Minister John Hayes said: “The low-emission sector supports over 18,000 UK jobs and is a key pillar in our ambition for a low carbon, high tech and high skills economy.”

He also reiterated the UK’s ambitious pledge for green cars in the future. “We want to make the UK a world leader in electric vehicle uptake and manufacture, to ensure that by 2050 every car and van on our roads is a zero emission vehicle.”

Volkswagen Passat GTE (2016)

Plug-in Volkswagen Passat GTE orders open from £36,525

Volkswagen Passat GTE (2016)Volkswagen has opened ordering for the first-ever plug-in Passat, with the new GTE petrol-electric hybrid costing from £36,525.

That’s the pre-grant price: the Plug-in Car Grant takes it down by £2,500 because CO2 emissions are low and its zero-emissions range is high.

Volkswagen says the official NEDC fuel consumption for the new Passat GTE is 166 mpg (provided you have a full battery); CO2 emissions are 39 g/km. The plug-in hybrid system gives it up to 31 miles’ electric-only range.

When depleted, the 1.4-litre TSI turbo petrol engine produces 156 hp, with the electric motor adding an extra 115 hp – the system total is 218 hp and 295lb ft of torque.

0-62mph takes 7.6 seconds and Volkswagen says that has the electric motor alone produces 243 lb/ft of pulling power from near-standstill, responsiveness is impressive.

A six-speed DSG gearbox is standard; a third clutch handles the transition between electric drive and petrol power, decoupling the TSI motor wherever possible to conserve momentum.

Volkswagen Passat GTE (2016)

Charging the lithium ion battery, which is positioned beneath the rear seat (meaning boot space is unchanged over regular Passat), takes 4 hours 15 minutes from a domestic UK power supply, or two hours 30 minutes from a 3.6 kW wallbox.

The Passat GTE has suitably sporty detailing in the vein of the GTI-inspired Golf GTE, and is offered in two trim lines: GT and GT Advance. First deliveries are due later this month.

Here’s hoping Volkswagen makes a better job of it than BMW did with its plug-in hybrid 3 Series…

BMW 740e 740Le xDrive 2016

BMW 740e plug-in hybrid does 134.5mpg and costs £68,330

BMW 740e 740Le xDrive 2016The new BMW 740e plug-in hybrid has become the most fuel-efficient 7 Series ever, with combined economy of 134.5mpg despite offering 0-62mph in 5.4 seconds potency.

The PHEV also boasts CO2 emissions of just 49g/km – giving it an ultra-low 7% Benefit In Kind tax rating for company car drivers. Combined with a list price from £68,330, this may make it extremely attractive to fleet car operators.

Provided, that is, BMW can secure enough UK supplies of it…

The BMW 740e drivetrain combines a 258 hp 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine with a 112 hp electric motor for a total system power of 326 hp. There’s ample torque of 386 lb-ft as well.

BMW 740e 740Le xDrive 2016

A high-capacity 9.2kWh lithium ion battery is necessary to power the system (and provide up to 29 miles of full EV driving); it’s stored under the rear seat but doesn’t take up too much room – the boot is still 420 litres.

BMW also offers a long-wheelbase all-wheel drive version, the 740Le xDrive: this costs £74,880, and is 0.1 seconds faster to 62mph (thank you, all-wheel drive traction), although economy drops to 117.7mpg and CO2 is up to 54g/km (costing fleet drivers an extra 4% on their tax bill).

BMW 740e 740Le xDrive 2016

The 740e compares well with the 730d that takes the bulk of UK sales: that costs from £63,530, averages 60.1mpg and emits 124g/km CO2 for a much, much steeper 24% BIK company car tax bill.

The firm is trading the new 7 Series plug-in hybrid models as part of the BMW iPerformance range, which already includes the X5 eDrive40e, 225xe and BMW 330e. Both the ultra-clever 740e and 740Le xDrive, which are marked out by their battery charge point in the left front wing, eDrive badges on the C pillars, BMW i logo on the front side panels and BMW i Blue bits for the kidney grille, are on sale now.

Tesla

Ecotricity Tesla complaint rejected by ASA

TeslaThe Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has rejected a complaint made by green electricity supplier Ecotricity over claims Tesla made in a print advert.

Published in October 2015, the advert for the Tesla Model S made two claims that Ecotricity felt were misleading:

  • ‘The World’s Fastest Charging Station’
  • ‘Over the five year average length of car ownership, that’s approximately £6,000 in petrol savings’

Ecotricity felt it was not fully clear how the firm formulated its claims and felt the advert was thus misleading.

However, in its ruling, the ASA accepted that “in the context of advertising about the Tesla Model S, consumers would understand the claim “the World’s Fastest Charging Station” to mean that Tesla Superchargers were the fastest at charging currently available compatible EVs”.

It thus did not break codes for misleading advertising, exaggeration and substantiation.

Ecotricity challenges Tesla

For the second claim, Ecotricity challenged some of the figures used in the savings calculation – Tesla’s assumption that the Superchargers would be used 10% of the time, the cost of electricity and the price of petrol.

In response, Tesla told the ASA its own ‘connected car’ figures showed the percentage of electricity delivered to its cars via Superchargers was 11%; it rounded it down to 10% for the calculation. The electricity cost was based on an European Commission report which included an estimated price of electricity in the UK.

The fuel cost, of £1.17 per litre, was a monthly average between October 2014 and February 2015.

Interestingly, Tesla also based the comparable fuel economy figure of 39.2mpg on that of the BMW 535i – a car it considered had “significantly higher fuel economy than other luxury vehicles closer to the Telsa Model S price point and performance”.

It believes the comparison figure is actually thus conservative, and the saving would be even more impressive had it used figures from the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Porsche Panamera or BMW 7 Series…

Plug-in Car Grant

Plug-in Car Grant extended to 2018 – but cut back for hybrid drivers

Plug-in Car GrantThe government has extended the Plug-in Car Grant incentive with a £400 million boost that guarantees it until at least March 2018.

Ministers claim this will treble the number of greener vehicles on British roads – up from 50,000 Plug-in Car Grant beneficiaries today to more than 150,000 by 2018.


Read more:

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV review

Audi A3 Sportback e-tron long-term review

Plug-in Car Grant extended to ‘at least February 2016’


There is one significant change with the revised grant though: plug-in hybrid cars will no longer benefit from the full incentive; that’s reserved for cars with an emissions-free range of over 70 miles.

The top rate of grant has also been reduced from £5,000 to £4,500.

“The UK is a world leader in the uptake of low emission vehicles and the Plug-in Car Grant has been key to that success,” said transport minister Andrew James.

“Extending the grant in a sustainable way ensures more than 100,000 people will benefit from financial support.”

How does the Plug-in Car Grant work?

From March 2016, the Plug-in Car Grant will consist of two rates, each benefitting from a different level of financial support.

  • Category 1: vehicles with a zero emission range of over 70 miles = £4,500 grant
  • Category 2 and 3: vehicles with a shorter zero emission range = £2,500

In practice, this means that full EVs will benefit from the full £4,500 grant, while plug0-in hybrid vehicles with a supplementary petrol or diesel engine get a lower £2,500 grant.

The government has lowered the Category 2 and 3 grant partly to reflect the popularity of such vehicles and try to restore the appeal of fully electric vehicles.

Technically, the grant offers 35% off the cost of a car, up to a maximum of £4,500: in reality, because ultra low emission vehicles are generally expensive, most automatically qualify for the top rate of grant.

Which cars are eligible for the Plug-in Car Grant?

The government has a full list of cars eligible for the Plug-in Car Grant, which is constantly updated. Currently, 29 vehicles are eligible – that’s five times as many as when the scheme was first launched.

As of December 2015, eligible cars are:

  1. Audi A3 e-tron
  2. BMW i3
  3. BMW i8
  4. BMW 225xe
  5. BMW 330e
  6. BYD e6
  7. Citroen CZero
  8. Ford Focus Electric
  9. Kia Soul EV
  10. Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive
  11. Mercedes-Benz C350 e
  12. Mercedes-Benz S500 Hybrid
  13. Mitsubishi iMiEV
  14. Mitsubishi Outlander
  15. Nissan e-NV200 5-seater and 7-seater
  16. Nissan LEAF
  17. Peugeot iON
  18. Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid
  19. Renault Fluence
  20. Renault ZOE
  21. Smart fortwo electric drive
  22. Tesla Model S
  23. Toyota Mirai
  24. Toyota Prius Plug-in
  25. Volkswagen e-up!
  26. Volkswagen e-Golf
  27. Volkswagen Golf GTE
  28. Volvo V60 D6 Twin Engine
  29. Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine