Imagine the look on my face when the email came through. “We are going to drive from Melbourne to Adelaide and back, on a single tank of fuel in a Hyundai ix35 diesel, are you in?”. Was it a joke? I mean really, who can drive the 1,400+ kilometre route on a single tank of fuel?
Actually, there is someone who can and has done so already. His name is Hans Tholstrup and he is a Dutch “eco-adventurer”, which is by far the coolest job title I’ve heard in some time.
Mr Tholstrup took an Hyundai ix35 from Melbourne to the outskirts of Adelaide, turned around and headed back to Melbourne, covering 1,476 kilometres on a single tank of fuel, his average fuel economy was 4.85L of diesel per 100km. Not bad at all.
Our task was to match or beat that. Frankly the more realistic goal was simply to get from Melbourne to Adelaide and back without having to refuel. Beating Hans was a bonus. To make things more interesting, Hyundai had also brought along a competing team from TopGear Australia Magazine to keep us honest.
9am Thursday morning, Melbourne. It’s cold, it’s raining and the trams are (as per usual) causing havoc for city traffic. Our cars were filled up to the max and certified by the kind folks at the RACV. Tanks were sealed and we were on our way.
Our task was to head towards Adelaide, fighting city traffic along the way. Tactics were discussed in regards to dealing with traffic situations and best practices to use the least amount of fuel.
Hyundai had kindly supplied us with a technical engineer that answered all relevant questions. For those wondering, 75-82 km/h is the optimal speed in a Hyundai ix35 diesel for best fuel economy. The vehicle uses the exact same amount of fuel doing 65km/h in fifth gear as it does doing 80km/h in 6th gear. Of course the extra 15km/h advantage makes it the optimal speed.
If you’re going to be stopped at a set of traffic lights, it’s best to turn off your engine. Given that diesel engines require no burst of fuel to start, you will save more fuel that way, even counting the fuel required to restart the engine. Additionally, you’re best leaving the car in Drive when coasting down a hill. Most modern engines won’t use fuel coasting, but putting it in Neutral will actually mean you’ll be using more fuel (given it goes into idle state).
Technicalities aside, we were off. Within 15 minutes into the Journey our own Anthony Crawford had already taken a wrong turn.
The fuel economy to achieve was under 5L/100km and after two hours of driving, the best we could manage was 5.6L/100km.
Country town after country town, the scenery was filled with green backdrops and tens of thousands of livestock. Nonetheless we must not be distracted. Despite Anthony’s best efforts fuel economy was not coming down to ‘eco-adventurer’ levels and we were starting to get worried. However there was some good news, Anthony had only used just one bar of fuel after over 300 kilometres. So either the average fuel economy from the car’s trip computer was over compensating or the fuel gauge was being generous.
The support car spent most of its time running between the two cars, which at one stage were nearly an hour apart from each other. The difference between the two cars is a slight weight difference (higher grade model with more specs) and wider profile tyres.
After 663.5 kilometres, we are currently at a motel in Murray Bridge, about 70ks from Adelaide. One of the ix35s is reading 5.5L/100km and the other is reading 5.7L/100km.
Both seem to have used less than half a tank of fuel and going by this result and hoping that the fuel gauge is more accurate than the average fuel economy figures, we should be able to make it back to Melbourne tomorrow.