Electric cars for beginners: the new Opel Ampera-e on a real-world test spin
One question dominates the discourse on the future of mobility: what energy source will power our vehicles? While some car manufacturers declare themselves fully pledged to moving on with e-mobility, elsewhere bonuses are creating new incentives to buy “advanced” diesel and gasoline-driven cars. It seems as though people don’t really want what they want. And of course diesel car drivers’ favourite complaint about cars with batteries continues to resound: about their lack of charging infrastructure and limited driving range. Is now really the time to consider buying an electric car? Our colleague Lena takes the new Opel Ampera-e out, running the 2017 electric vehicle through a “real world” test – with no previous knowledge of electric cars!
“Ever driven an electric car before?” the Opel employee asks, looking at me questioningly as we approach the vehicle in question. He points with the key to indicate the new Opel Ampera-e: the vehicle I’ll be driving from Rüsselsheim to Munich today, for The Mobility House. “Of course!” I exclaim – untruthfully – trying to hide my excitement. My attitude to cars is probably typical of most people in Generation Carshare: I don’t need one, so I don’t think too much about them. Between public transport, getting lifts, and cycling under my own steam, I can generally get anywhere I want to go. So I approach my first electric car journey with an open mind: I just want to get to my destination without complications – so we’ll see how that turns out. In preparation for my journey, I’ve noted the details of three “Tank & Rast” fast-charging points en route, just in case; thanks to The Mobility House, I’m at least somewhat familiar with the charging process.
Inside the car: Plenty of space for smart technology
So this is the car that half of the electric car drivers in Germany have been waiting for. Looking at the car, its design is impressive. Rather rectilinear, but by no means conservative; gleaming chrome elements impart a young, sporty look. As I slide in behind the steering wheel, the huge, high-quality touchscreen display immediately catches the eye. The employee runs through the functions, getting me up to speed with the air-conditioning system, radio, and even various live views relating to the battery and charging status. The one thing missing is a navigation system, though this can be remedied by running a smartphone app (Android Auto or Apple CarPlay) and connecting the phone to the in-car USB ports. A small disappointment for me here: my smartphone is too old to work consistently with the Opel IntelliLink system, so I can’t use it. Fortunately, the Bluetooth connection does work, so the instructions from my navigation app are played though the car audio system. Now I know everything I need to, I can hit the road – my next stop will be the Aurach South service station near Erlangen, where a CCS charging station is waiting for me.
The Opel Ampera-e driving experience: electric is different, but cool!
I press a button to start the car. A glance at the display tells me that my battery is full, and that my calculated average driving range is 327 km. I have 417 km to travel to my destination, with 225 km until my charging stop.
I move off slowly; drive out of the car dealership; then head out of Rüsselsheim. From the outset, the car feels smooth and sure to drive, though I need to keep a close eye on the speedometer to develop an accurate sense of the electric car’s speed. City driving feels deceptively slow, as the Opel Ampera-e coasts along the streets almost soundlessly. The lack of clutch and manual gearbox feels strange to me at first, but within just a few minutes I become comfortably accustomed to it.
Much is said in praise of how electric cars accelerate – and rightly so, as I found out when we hit the motorway. Let’s just say that I now know electric cars are certainly not slow: my average speed (not including through roadworks) is 130 km/h, though the car can achieve 150 km/h without a dramatic impact on driving range. Drive mode requires manual braking, and is perfect for motorway travel. I switch to L mode at the first traffic jam. Now the Opel Ampera-e recuperates so strongly that the brake is barely needed: moving in dense stop-and-go traffic couldn’t be more comfortable. The car also has practical features such as road sign detection and blindspot warning, which make driving even easier.
pictures: © The Mobility House
Opel Ampera-e charging break: 160 km of driving range in 40 minutes
The Opel Ampera-e display indicates 96 km of driving range remaining, as Aurach service station appears ahead. Note that the six-kilometre disparity between this figure and the original driving range forecast is explained by a detour I took, unsuccessfully attempting to bypass a traffic jam. I’ve used up around 42 to 60 kWh, and now I want to replace some of that!
Charging is much easier than I’d expected. It doesn’t require an RFID card or an app, and the power at this charging station – with a current peak of 50 kW DC – doesn’t cost me a cent. The electric car forecasts 56 minutes of charging time to get the battery to 80%, so I do what everyone does at a service station: I drink cappuccino and stretch my legs. From a distance, I notice how often curious passersby stroll over to the Opel Ampera-e, examining it closely. There is not another electric car as far as the eye can see – I’ve never felt so innovative and individual! I snap a quick Instagram photo, then get back on the road after 40 minutes of charging – with 254 km of driving range on the clock. Not only is that enough to take me over the line 203 km later; I even have 89 kilometres of driving range left.
In summary: uncomplicated, reliable – and real-world friendly
Somewhat to my surprise, driving the Opel Ampera-e did bring me under the spell of electric cars! A car can definitely be fun to drive without having a noisy combustion engine. The Opel Ampera-e is also first-rate when it comes to practicability; I would have taken a break on this route anyway, so the charging stop wasn’t at all disruptive for me. The driving range forecast adapts to driving behaviour and is true to its promises, so I have no complaints about its suitability for everyday use! What’s more, the free charging station meant that the trip cost me nothing. Well, I didn’t have to pay for the car of course… Nonetheless, for me, a car with a combustion engine has a high bar to reach now.
Do you want to know how best to charge the Opel Ampera-e at home? You’ll find the appropriate charging solutions for the Opel Ampera-e in our online shop.