Vauxhall’s multi award-winning Ampera became a record-breaker as well as a ground-breaker recently when a journalist from Top Gear magazine drove it through the Channel Tunnel from the UK to France and back.

Vauxhall Ampera

The story began with a challenge from Top Gear’s editor who wanted the magazine to be the first to drive a production car through the Channel Tunnel.  As luck would have it, a third tunnel exists which runs between Eurotunnel’s main railway lines. It descends 75 metres below the English Channel and is normally used for safety crews operating specially-made vehicles.

Eurotunnel agreed to the service tunnel being used, but for safety reasons insisted that the car had to run on battery power while underground.  Not a problem for any electric vehicle with a range of over 63 miles. However there was an added twist: Top Gear’s reporter Dan Read needed to complete his entire journey – London to Calais – in a vehicle that didn’t need to refuel/recharge.  This propelled the Ampera and its unique range-extending capabilities to the front of the queue.

“We do like a good challenge at Top Gear, especially one involving the English Channel,” said Top Gear magazine Editor-in-Chief Charlie Turner. “The telly boys conquered it with an amphibious pickup truck, and now we’ve done it again with the Ampera – our current Green Car of the Year, and probably the most practical take on electric car tech.”

The Ampera started the 270 mile round trip in Hold mode, a function which holds the charge in the lithium-ion battery making use of the on-board range extender to generate and supply electricity to power the wheels.  On arrival at the tunnel entrance the car was switched into its default normal mode which powers the wheels using electricity supplied by the battery.    Not only did the Ampera complete the challenge, it did it convincingly achieving a battery range in excess of 60 miles, beating the official range of between 25 and 50 miles.

Ampera Launch Manager Ian Allen commented: “We were confident that the Ampera could pull this record off and were delighted to be able to prove that a skilled driver can beat our maximum battery range estimate by quite some margin. This epic journey really did once again drive home the fact that the Ampera is the only electric vehicle suitable for all journeys.”

Speaking to Eurotunnel’s John Keefe, after the challenge, he said: “It’s great to see car manufacturers making such huge steps in the development of sustainable options for the travelling public. Our Shuttle services run on electricity from low carbon sources, but this is the first time a production car has driven to France and back on one battery charge. I am also pleased that, even though the Ampera broke its distance record for one charge, the Shuttle Service’s unbeatable strengths of speed, ease and reliability ensured that cars that travel by Shuttle still get to France faster!  But the really important point is that they all cross the Channel using power from low carbon sources!”

The full story is featured in the November issue of Top Gear magazine which is on sale now.