Over the last few weeks I’ve been writing about our new Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) which was the logical next step in journey towards a fossil-fuel-free lifestyle. Clearly a PHEV is not fossil-fuel-free as it uses petrol to run the Hybrid drive system but, for our close-to-home trips, the Plug-in feature allows us to do most of our driving powered by the excess electricity from the solar panels on the roof of the Greeny Flat.
As I wrote in last week’s Newsletter, we have already figured out that driving on electricity is cheaper than driving on petrol but can this PHEV really do everything we need it to do? Can it successfully pull a trailer? Is it big enough for us to sleep comfortably in the back? Can it handle a road-trip loaded with camping, surfing and sailing gear and still get decent fuel economy? And can it pull all that gear up a big hill? This week we have answered all those questions with a resounding “Yep!”
Cintia and I don’t get very excited about Christmas but we felt a certain obligation to mark the transition to a New Year. So, since the forecast was for perfect beach weather and we had the opportunity to take a few days off work, we decided to go car-camping to Jervis Bay. This meant that I had to build a bed platform in the back of the Outlander. A couple of sheets of plywood and a couple of hours after work on Wednesday and we had a nice platform with some storage space underneath, just long enough for me to (almost) stretch out. I’m 184cm (6′-1″ for the oldies) so it’s a pretty good size.
Obviously it needs a mattress but, not wanting to spend any money until we’d had a chance to try it out, we cobbled together a collection of foam pads and yoga mats, loaded all our camping, surfing, sailing and beach gear into the car and onto the trailer with the Windrush catamaran, and headed for the coast.
We had a wonderful few days. We snorkeled at Callala Beach; watched the Huskisson fireworks display across Jervis Bay while we shared a bottle of bubbly and listened to Bob Marley; slept New Year’s Eve on the trampoline of the catamaran under the stars; circumnavigated the Bay by sail on New Year’s Day; found a perfect, deserted beach tucked under Point Perpendicular where we sunbaked and snorkeled again; had a wild ride back across the Bay with the nor’easter gusting up to about 30 knots; took the little passenger ferry over to Huskisson where there were so many tourists we couldn’t find a place to sit, eat or drink a beer so beat a hasty retreat back to the peace and beauty of Callala Bay; slept the second night (very comfortably) in the back of the Outlander next to the boatramp; watched a breathtaking sunrise from the jetty; cooked a delicious breakfast on the public BBQ; drove up to Seven Mile Beach for a lovely, early-morning surf; stopped in to Clarke Rubber in Shellharbour to buy a mattress having declared the bed experiment a resounding success; swung by the Yacht Shop at Warrawong to organise repairs to the Windrush after the beating we took crossing the Bay; then headed back up Macquarie Pass to home.
All told this was both a delightful adventure and an excellent test of the all-round capabilities of the Outlander PHEV and I have to say, it passed with flying colours. We were able to easily fit everything we needed including camping, snorkeling, surfing and sailing gear, two wetsuits, clothes for a few days, and a comfortable bed. Towing the trailer loaded with a Windrush catamaran and two surfboards was a dream… I hardly even noticed it was there and the generous mirrors on the Outlander made it easy to check that everything was riding safely. The only problem was that the reversing camera thought the trailer was an obstacle and kept up a constant and annoying warning signal whenever we had to back up. Most impressively, in spite of being heavily loaded and having to drive up two big hills (once through Kangaroo Valley to get to Nowra and once up Macquarie Pass to get home) we still managed to get very good mileage out of the last tank of petrol.
This time around we drove 585 miles since the previous fill-up and used a total of 27.22 litres of E10 Unleaded petrol. That equates to an average of 4.7L/100km which is even better than the 4.9L/100km we got last time. With the PHEV, this is entirely a function of how many times we were able to charge it. During this tank of fuel we also put 60.54kWh of electricity into the batteries (compared to the 30.6kWh during the last tank-full) so we did a lot more driving on electric which skews the fuel-economy figures. What I’m realising is that I don’t have actual figures on the fuel-economy that the Hybrid system gets without additional plug-in electricity. So I’m going to drive it for a few days without charging it up then fill it up again and see how much petrol it uses on Hybrid only.
Meanwhile, one of our readers has pointed out that a hidden advantage of having regenerative braking (which means we can drive with very little use of the brake pedal) is that we should have greatly reduced wear and maintenance required on the brake system.
Our next road-trip will probably be up to Tamworth where a couple of my cousins will be playing at the Country Music Festival in a couple of weeks. We’re excited to try out our new mattress on that trip and see how the car performs on a longer, flatter road-trip. We’ll keep you posted.