1,526 Miles on a Single Tank

AA Eco-driving helps Sunday Times break world record

Sunday Times journalist establishes new world record (Image courtesy of Media Inventions Ltd)

4 October 2010

AA Drive Smart eco-driving tuition helped a motoring journalist from The Sunday Times set a new world record for the longest distance travelled by a production car on a single tank of fuel.

The record of 1,526.63 miles broke the previous one by more than 67 miles and was set in a standard Volkswagen Passat Bluemotion 1.6 diesel, which has a 70 litre fuel tank.

Drive Smart was established by the AA's charity to give at-risk new drivers a refresher in road safety and eco-driving. Before the challenge, AA Drive Smart instructor Chris Watkinson coached journalist Gavin Conway on how to improve his fuel economy, achieving a 25% gain after just one test run.

it really is some achievement to get most of the way round France on a single tank Chris says: "Although Gavin is a very experienced driver, I was able to remind him of a few simple techniques – such as block changing the gears, for example from first to third; keeping to less than 2,000 revs; and removing excess weight – that anyone could benefit from.

"While it's true that the Passat has a big fuel tank, it's still a large, fairly heavy vehicle, so it really is some achievement to get most of the way round France on a single tank. To put it in perspective, a normal diesel car gets around 45 miles per gallon on average, and they managed to double that to 90mpg."

Rules and regulations

To ensure all the rules of the challenge were adhered to, the AA also provided scrutineers: Donald MacSporran, the AA's Head of Technical Performance and Training, sealed the filler flap at the start and travelled over to France for the finish; and patrols Paul Leather and Kevin Jones followed them all the way in a patrol van to continue the scrutineering and in case of any technical issues.

Allez allez!

The record-breaking route started at the Maidstone Services on the M20 before crossing the Channel on Eurotunnel. In France, they racked up the miles on the autoroutes doing a huge circuit of the country – from Calais, passing Rouen, Caen, Rennes, Nantes, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Narbonne, Montpellier, Nîmes, Lyon, Dijon and Reims – before eventually running out of fuel not far from Arras, heading northbound towards Calais.

The trip broke a record held for eight years by John and Helen Taylor, an Australian couple who drove 1,459 miles in a diesel Peugeot 406 from Melbourne to Rockhampton, Queensland. The pair offered their "hearty congratulations" on the new record.

"This is what it's about for us," says John. "Encouraging everyone on the planet to go out and break records and learn how they can save fuel."


The full route can be viewed on Google Maps and the Sunday Times feature appeared on 3 October.

Although the Passat officially has a 70 litre fuel tank, when brimmed after being completely drained by a specialist AA Fuel Assist technician, it actually held 77.25 litres (16.99 gallons) of fuel.

Therefore, covering 1,526.63 miles using 16.99 gallons gives an average fuel economy of 89.85 miles per gallon (mpg), equating to 6.17p per mile.

The average fuel economy for a diesel car is typically around 40-45mpg. The 'official combined' fuel economy figure for the Passat is 64.2mpg.

To put the record distance in context, 1,526 miles is slightly further than John o'Groats to Plymouth and back (759 miles one-way).

The record was set in August but wasn't published in The Sunday Times till 3 October after waiting for verification from Guinness World Records.

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1 October 2010

Image reproduced courtesy of Media Inventions Ltd