31st October 2009

Inside the Global Green Challenge

posted in Car News Articles |

We’ve been on the road for almost 2500km and are now nearing the end of what’s been an interesting eco challenge.

About now (actually, it would have been about two days ago!) the organisers of the Global Green Challenge will be wondering how come they came up with a set of rules that looks like it will hand victory to one of the nation’s great fire-breathing, gas guzzlers, the 6.2-litre HSV Maloo ute.

The idea of the car that gets the best percentage improvement over its official Australian government fuel consumption figures winning a competition for eco cars is just a little ludicrous.
The Maloo, with an official combined cycle consumption of 15.1 litres/100km, was always going to beat this numbers running between Darwin and Adelaide at a loping 75km/h.

Full marks to Josh Dowling and HSV for seeing the silliness of the rules and going after the win.
Others though, have other aims. With a Ford Fiesta ECOnetic, we’re chasing the crown of the most economical car in the event, and so far we’re on target.

The scenery and other tourists delight are hard to find on the 685km stretch of Stuart Highway between Alice Springs to Coober Pedy.

It’s a mainly desolate and flat landscape, with just a few road houses to break the journey.

There is little other sign of wild life too, beyond the occasional hawk picking over road-kill beyond its use by date.

Even the bugs have given the area a wide berth – the windscreen on our ECOnetic turbo diesel arrived in the dusty opal town at dusk with nary a sign of a suicidal insect on the glass. The temperature gauge showed a comfortable 29 degrees C.

You’d think that boredom among crews in the Global Green Challenge production and alternative fuel vehicles could have been an issue, but the task of extracting the best fuel consumption figures demands serious concentration. And some sacrifices.

While some crews look with envy at the Kia Sorento crews, who have been provided with cool vests to help in the searing heat, we prefer to tough it out.

As my co-driver Carolyn Barry puts it, “we’re hard core!” No cool vests, no air cond, no fans. They’re for softies.

And yes, there has been some polite discussion on fart etiquette in such a close and closed environment. Fortunately the need has not arisen to enact the decision we’ve made on this matter.

Now, the Global Green Challenge folk are now taking in the delights of Coober Pedy, partly built underground to keep inhabitants and visitors cool.

Our Mini rivals have switched some drivers. Drive’s Jaedene Hudson and Le Mans winner Vern Schuppan have returned to home cities and consistent food and air conditioning.

In their place in one Mini D are the ABC’s Will Hagon and Australian Conservation Foundation’s Gail Broadbent, both appreciating the cooler weather on their watch.

But I’m confident that another committed economy driving performance this morning from magazine editor Carolyn Barry (a handy 54kg body weight contributor to our excellent power-to-weight figures) has set our Fiesta up for another strong result.

Revised figures issued at the halfway point in Alice Springs show the Fiesta ECOnetic 1.6 – to go on sale in Australia in December – is consuming fuel more slowly than any car in the event; 3.18L/100km.

Next best are the three Minis – all hovering between 3.5 and 3.8L/100km. The three-cylinder petrol Suzuki Alto follows with a three day average of 4.0L/100km.

Another impressive result has come so far from the biggish turbo diesel Skoda Superb, which three up and with a swag of luggage, is consuming fuel at the thrifty rate of just 4.6L/100km.

There’s also a battle royal between the sibling Koreans, the Kia Sorento and the Hyundai Santa Fe, the former doing 5.17L/100 in the first half of the event to lead the medium SUV section.

Port Augusta is our Wednesday evening destination.

Peter McKay

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