In a summer of negative natural world records caused by climate change, a trio of drivers in the UK broke three new records to raise awareness for e-mobility and eco-driving. Their formula: detailed planning and testing, enduring enthusiasm, and support from one of the world’s leading car manufacturers.
Fergal McGrath (Ireland), Kevin Booker (UK), and Adam Wood (UK) drove an all-electric Mustang Mach-E on the famous route of John o' Groats to Land's End (between the two extremities on the island of Great Britain).
The journey broke three Guinness World Records titles for driving from John o' Groats to Land's End in an electric car:
- Lowest energy consumption - 9,500.796 W.hrs/100km
- Shortest charging time – 43 minutes and 13 seconds
- Fewest charge stops - 1
The first attempt – for lowest energy consumption – took place on 3-4 July 2021. Kevin Booker and Fergal McGrath were joined by BBC South transport correspondent Paul Clifton (UK). The 840-mile (1,350 km) journey lasted 27 hours. To save energy, the air con and the radio were turned off. The team drove through rain, wind, and sunshine, with the BBC documenting the entire adventure.
The second attempt happened on 31 August-1 September 2021. The trio of McGrath, Booker, and Wood managed to break two other new records – for shortest charging time and fewest charge stops.
We spoke with McGrath about the idea behind the attempts, the challenges, and his love for record breaking.
How do you prepare for a record like this?
Firstly, we formed the core team of drivers with a similar mindset for efficiency. Next, it was critical to find the most capable car and it was clear the Mustang Mach-E had very strong credentials. We contacted Oliver Rowe from Ford and he loved the idea, as the timing worked well with the UK launch of the car.
So, the initial meetings were arranged with the Guinness World Records (GWR) team and attempt dates were set in the calendar. Several video call meetings were held with essential technical support from Ford Dunton, Ford Germany, the AA, and Intrepid Control Systems, bringing their data logging equipment and expertise. Every detail was planned, discussed, and finely tuned.
We had the car testing for several weeks before the record attempt itself - we experimented to find the sweet spot for efficiency and tested fast charging and potential real-world issues. Co-driver Kevin Booker also took part in a one-charge, driving range 24hour+ record in the build-up to fine tune his eco-driving skills and improve his stamina.
We also needed to repeat the record attempt as some vital evidence was missing for one of the records first time around. With the second attempt came the opportunity to achieve a third GWR title, which was an opportunity too good to refuse.
What was your favourite part of the trip?
Driving from John O'Groats down through the highlands along the coast road to Inverness. The sun was shining, and spirits were high along with the excited feeling of being part of a special GWR attempt. Driving into Land’s End with the crowd cheering at the finish sign was also a special memory. With the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) being held later this year in Glasgow, it felt like just the right time to be raising the awareness of advanced electric vehicle technology and zero tailpipe emissions.
What was the most challenging part of the journey?
We set the charging time limits with a very small safety margin to enable the best record possible. We hit very bad weather in Devon and Cornwall, which impacted the driving range, so there was a real risk that we would run out of charge before getting to the finish. For the last 10 miles driving into Land’s End, the car said it had zero charge left and warning lights were flashing.
What are your top tips for fuel-efficient driving?
Slow and steady wins the race. Plan your journey, don't accelerate or brake harshly, smoothness is the biggest key to saving energy/fuel. Ensure your car is well maintained and the tyres are inflated to the correct pressure.
Were you a fan of GWR growing up and did you ever imagine breaking a record?
Yes, we always got the books and I loved reading about different and crazy records achieved all over the world. I am currently a very proud holder of five Guinness World Records titles.
What do your family and friends think of your achievement?
My kids, Tom and Rose are very proud, and they really love reading the GWR books too. Family and friends in the UK were very supportive throughout. My family and friends back in Ireland were very impressed too - so much so, I appeared in the local paper!
Any plans to break more records?
Yes, I would love to break more records with electric vehicles, as I believe it is important to get the message out how good these cars have become. I have initial plans for a coast to coast in the United States and hopefully that can be lined up for 2022.
I would also love to attempt a record with my kids when they get a bit older.
What would you say to someone who’s never driven an electric car?
Take a test drive and you'll be amazed how good they have become. Costs will come down and they will be more affordable in the future. Going back to a petrol or diesel car after driving an electric car is a bit like going back into a smoking pub.