Vauxhall has misled potential buyers by labelling the Ampera electric in advertisements for the car, according to a ruling by an advertising watchdog.
The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has banned the advert, after it failed to mention that the Ampera used a petrol engine to generate electricity for the car's Lithium-ion battery. The ruling effectively means that the Vauxhall Ampera should be classed as a hybrid, and not an electric car.
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Vauxhall insist that the car is totally electric, as the petrol motor doesn't actually drive the wheels of the car, instead only acting as a backup generator to the Ampera's electric motor. The Ampera website states: 'The generator is powered by a 1.4 litre, 16-valve VVT ECOTEC petrol engine that generates 86PS.
'This fuel efficient low-emission unit kicks in once the battery reaches its minimum state of charge or when the driver selects Hold mode. On a full tank, it will be up to 310 miles before you need to refuel to continue your jouney.
However, ASA has taken exception to the advert for the Ampera - especially Vauxhall's reluctance to point out that the Ampera's petrol motor complements the car's range extender. The only identifier in the commercial is small print that shows the Ampera sometimes relies on an 'additional power source'.
The advertising watchdog said: 'We considered that throughout the ad the emphasis was on the fact that the car was being driven electrically, and that most viewers would not understand that the car was in some circumstances being powered by electricity generated with a petrol engine.
'Because it did not clearly explain how the vehicle worked in extended range mode, we concluded that the ad was misleading.'
The ASA wasn't at all happy with the entire electric theme of the ad. In it, Vauxhall shows the Ampera connected to an electricity source. It then shows shots of the car in motion with a pylon in the background. A voiceover says "Only true pioneers go further than others. Vauxhall Ampera, driving electricity further."
Vauxhall claims it can reach up to 360 miles thanks to the car's range extender. The range of the Ampera has been one of the car's biggest selling points, and a key factor in Vauxhall's advertisement campaigns. Owners can charge the Ampera's motor via a 240V standard household supply in six hours.
The battery lets the Ampera reach 25 - 50 miles, while a petrol generator 'provides the electricity to drive up to 310 extra miles' according to Vauxhall. The car's long-life battery system is mounted under the floor.
"We're breaking completely fresh ground with the Ampera. The technology is obviously unique in a production car," commented Duncan Aldred, Vauxhall's Chairman and Managing Director before the Ampera's launch this May.
The Vauxhall Ampera is the current European Car of the Year, and is available from £29,995. That price is inclusive of the £5,000 government plug-in car grant. The five-door, four-seat hatchback has a storage capacity of 300 litres and features two information displays alongside a touch-sensitive infotainment centre.
You can find out more about the car by taking a look at our Vauxhall Ampera page.
Written by John Meadowcroft