A field report
What is it actually like to drive an electric car? Some complain, others rave about it. Range, consumption, costs – you hear a lot, but in the end, no one really knows what eMobility is like unless you have experienced it yourself.
We’ll let you share the experience, even if you don’t (yet) drive an electric car. Because Patrick, our Product CEO, provides insights on 24 months of owning the Opel Ampera-e. Honest and unpolished… “After 20 months, I have travelled 53,000 km in the all-electric Ampera-e and have circumnavigated the globe more than once. What experiences have I had in the process? Here’s my conclusion:
Jumping in at the deep end
After I became increasingly involved in eMobility at work, it was clear to me that an electric car was a must. I also wanted to set an example. A Tesla would have been my dream car, but it wasn’t affordable. A dealer recommended the Opel Ampera-e – a car the size of a Golf.
At first, I thought he was pulling my leg. How would that be possible for a father of 3 children? Even with upper mid-range station wagons, it’s a difficult, if not hopeless, undertaking.
He encouraged me to open the doors and take a look inside. Immediately my eyes fell on the back seat and lo and behold, it was spacious enough and, thanks to the well thought-out spacing of the seat belt buckles, could easily accommodate 3 children.
Encouraged, I sat in the driver’s seat and was completely surprised by the amount of space: plenty of legroom in the front, back and between the seats. So this is what a fully electric car looks like: a small car on the outside, a fully fledged mid-size car on the inside. That was an encouraging start.
In short, I decided on the Opel Ampera-e as my new company car. My decision came with a slightly queasy feeling, because I didn’t realise how many restrictions I would be putting on my life purely out of idealism. At first, I saw the charging power of 7.2 kW as an almost no-go. It should be 11 kW – 22 kW. This fear turned out to be completely unfounded, because fortunately 4 – 7 kW AC charging power is almost always sufficient in everyday life, at work or at home overnight.
From the first test drive to long-distance driving
The children could hardly wait for the delivery date and loved the car from the first kilometre. The acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.3 seconds is enormous, especially the immediate acceleration when pressing the accelerator pedal. The children whooped with every kick-down and demanded maximum acceleration over and over again.
The first time I took my brother-in-law for a spin, I drove through a village (with no ). As we got closer to the end of the village, my 5-year-old son instructed me from the child seat: “Dad, you know exactly what to do now….” – My brother-in-law was also immediately impressed.
I made my first long-distance trips, still a little nervous, during the winter. These went from Nuremberg to Frankfurt, Mannheim and then in the summer even as far as Cottbus. All journeys were trouble-free and stress-free, as I no longer travelled at 200 km/h in the left lane as I used to, but at 120 km/h with cruise control in a very relaxed way. So an electric car not only protects the environment, but also the driver’s nerves. I completed the journeys to Frankfurt and Mannheim without having to stop and charge. After Cottbus, only a short stop at the rapid charger was needed.
Apps like chargEV are helpful companions for planning the journey. You know exactly where the rapid chargers are along the route and who operates them. There is usually a snack bar nearby and the 30-40 minutes charging time is no problem. We would have taken a meal break anyway.
Even if it’s not absolutely necessary, blankets and gloves have proven to be real “range extenders” in winter to gain range.
Driving experience? Different – but it really gets the job done!
The best thing about driving an electric car is “single-pedal driving”. Thanks to recuperation**, the car can be driven more or less with just the accelerator pedal: press down – car accelerates, lift your foot – car brakes and charges the battery. The brake pedal is actually hardly needed. Accordingly, the brake discs still look like new after more than 40,000 km.
When I drive a petrol car now, it feels strange and like a safety risk, because the combustion engine pushes forward even though you have taken your foot off the pedal. It’s like driving with outdated technology. I now find all the gear switching and the engine hum quite annoying and superfluous.
As an electric car driver, I quickly learned that caution is required in the city. Pedestrians don’t hear you very well in car parks. The same goes for cyclists, who should be overtaken with a really wide berth. The pleasure I get driving my eCar is still undiminished. The maximum acceleration is great fun and the torque from 80 to 120 in 4.5 seconds is a safety buffer on motorway slip roads and country roads. After just a short time, it was clear to me that this is the technology of the future, mainly for reasons of economy, but also because of the driving pleasure. I don’t really ever want to drive a combustion engine again; what’s the point?
Thoughts on the technology
The Ampera-e is really good in many respects and completely suitable for everyday use – just like cars you are used to – no difference and no limitations.
After 30,000 km, the first service was due. It only cost €124. I’m still amused about the €16 for the “corrosion protection inspection”. I imagine an apprentice having to walk around the car 3 times to find any rust spots…. There doesn’t seem to be much else to do…
The Ampera-e can recuperate up to 70kW**, this proved to be an important lever in practice to minimise the average consumption and thus increase the range. On country roads, 70kW is perfectly sufficient for completely braking around bends in a sporty driving style. So it doesn’t just depend on the battery size alone. In everyday life, it is the energy efficiency of the drivetrain and thus the average consumption that matters. Likewise, the battery size becomes less important with charging powers of around 200 kW.
A small point concerning comfort, in my opinion, would be: a DC charging speed of 150 to 200 kW, so that in future the stop on the motorway will only take 10-15 minutes – enough for a quick toilet break and a Cafe2go ….
And what about the charging infrastructure?
Charging infrastructure is already available everywhere and electric cars can park for free for the first few hours in many public car parks. Often there are special eParking spaces available at central locations. You can charge your car while you run your errands – unless there’s another combustion engine parked there, which is quite annoying. The possibility of charging at my employer’s premises while I’m at work also takes a lot of stress out of everyday life.”