As GM gets ready to introduce the Chevy VOLT to Europe as the Vauxhall Ampera, this article by ENN Affiliate the Ecologist examines some background, and why this car really IS a game changer.
From fossil fuel generated electricity to unreliable batteries, electric cars haven't always lived up to the hype. But with the launch of the Vauxhall Ampera, could all that be about to change? Ruth Styles reports:
I'm sitting in a huge, futuristic-white room in the Louwman Museum in The Hague when suddenly the back wall swings up to reveal a shiny crimson car. It rolls forward silently before coming to a halt in front of a room packed with journalists. This, the Ampera, say its makers, Vauxhall, is the future of eco-friendly motoring and a good-looking beast to boot. Good looks, I thought. Well yes, OK. But eco-friendly? How eco-friendly can driving really be? The Louwman Museum was the perfect place to find out.
The Hague's Louwman Museum is dedicated to cars past and present with the odd plane or two to spice things up. The museum's restaurant is located in a vast hangar-like space tricked out to resemble a turn-of-the-century Dutch town, complete with perfectly realised replicas of a plate-glass fronted haberdashery, a grocer and an impressive recreation of a neo-Palladian town hall facade. Slightly at odds with this rose-tinted vision of municipal history is the basket from a Zeppelin airship that hangs massively over the shops at one end of the vast space. Go under the Zeppelin and into the next room and you’ll find a classic car fan’s vision of heaven.
From the lumbering touring cars of the 1920s to the sleek bullet-shaped 1964 Aston Martin DB5 as driven by Sean Connery in Goldfinger; the Louwman Museum’s collection deftly charts the course of motoring history right up to the present day and the futuristic Vauxhall Ampera.
Particularly interesting was how much car design changed in the 40 short years between the touring cars and the DB5. Heavyweight chassis, low speeds and eye wateringly high prices gave way, via the Ford Model T, to beautifully light, quick models that were great to drive and relatively inexpensive. So where do electric cars come in? Vauxhall’s Ampera might be the latest but the concept of electric and hybrid cars isn’t anything new.
Editor's note: Having driven a VOLT for 7 months, racking up 9,000 miles on three 9 gallon tanks of gas, I agree that the VOLT/Ampera is a game changer, and not just for the incredible gas mileage. The best part is the experience of driving with no engine noise, no shifting transmission gears, and just silent powerful acceleration.