Tim Roberts of Fleet Strategy is currently on a trip across the Nullarbor from Perth to Adelaide in a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and AfMA is delighted to share the progress of his journey. Across the trip Tim will cover over 5000km of varied terrain and hopes to test the overall performance of both the traditional and the electric engines.

DRIVING INTO THE FUTURE

Launch day is the 21st of September and I’m making one of the worlds great road trips in a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.  2700km from Perth to Adelaide across the Nullarbor in the most practical, full size, fleet ready and affordable Plug-in Hybrid Electric 4WD’s available today. I’ll be in Adelaide to attend International Astronautical Congress, where some of the brightest minds on the planet will discuss how they’ll launch people off the planet.

We’re on the cusp of a fundamental shift in transport and energy… you can feel it, you can read about it on-line and, and you can now see it on the roads. Electric vehicles are finally becoming mainstream, yet many people still have concerns about their range and practicality. With a 2700km trip and little infrastructure in between, I’m  going to dispel those concerns in the coming days.

Look out for my posts over the next fortnight, we’re going to talk more about the technology, look at some of the latest in renewable energy projects… We might even get to do a little sightseeing.

THE ADVENTURE STARTS

#NRSPP Journey Management , there’ll an App for that. There’s also social media, how simple. 12noon Perth CBD depart- post again by Merredin by 4:30

DAY 2

@NRSPPaus @MitsubishiAust Perth to Adelaide. This is going to be the longest drive of the entire trip around 800km today. Weather is looking OK, PHEV is fully charged and the driver has had morning coffee.

Plenty of stops scheduled along the way, Checking in at Coolgardie by 10am. re-fuel and rest. More to come throughout the day.

Re-capping on the stats from yesterday, 433km in appalling conditions @ 6.5l/100km very comfortable driving using active cruise.

PERTH TO ADELAIDE BY PHEV. SAFE CAR, SAFE DRIVING

I continue to be impressed by Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV. It’s simply not possible to overlook the array of safety related equipment on-board and how it makes a journey across the country even more comfortable.

The knowledge that this vehicle is equipped with autonomous emergency braking and electronic stability control is reassuring, even though I don’t expect or want to test these features over the next two weeks. What I have enjoyed though is the adaptive cruise control (using the same suite of sensors), this has activated on approach to slower moving vehicles throughout the journey.

The system efficiently maintains the Outlander at a safe following distance without driver input (although it can be partially adjusted by the driver). Equally impressive is the lane departure feature that provides a clearly audible tone when I’ve approached either the centre or roadside white lines, which is inevitable on a long rural drive.

Once at cruise speed, the PHEV is clearly monitoring both the driver and its surroundings, this is not a signal for the driver to switch off though, rather it is an additional layer of vigilance that delivers a satisfying and secure driving experience.

PERTH TO ADELAIDE BY PHEV JOURNEY MANAGEMENT

As I approached Caiguna, it occurred to me how mind-blowingly vast this country is. After 1150kms, I still hadn’t reached the South Australian border.

Originally, I planned to continue to Cocklebiddy, however by 5pm the shadows were lengthening and I sighted my first emu sauntering along the roadside. Enough travel for one day and time to rest up for another big drive tomorrow.

My plan has always been to drive the Outlander PHEV just like any other vehicle and I put together a journey management plan before I started.

When I documented that plan, I conceived rest stops at least once every two hours and built plenty of contingency time into the trip. I’m glad I did, as you would expect, there are always factors you can’t control. Foul weather has followed me across the state, Haul-packs astride low-loaders were testing the strength of bridges near Northam and work crews tackled great stretches of roadworks further along the way. Then of course there’s the obvious sightseeing opportunity that inevitably delays a holidaying traveller.

What I didn’t consider is the inevitable variations in sunrise and sunset times across WA. That Perth and Caiguna share the same time-zone is significant, in Caiguna (1000km east), sunset is full 40 minutes earlier than in Perth… that caught me out today. Even so, the journey management plan has been working, plenty of good rest stops… hydration (not just caffeination) and a reasonably healthy diet.

As I pulled into Caiguna, I felt that I had plenty left in the tank to continue (sunset aside), but was that really the case? I recently saw two superb presentations on fatigue management at the NRSPP Utilities forum. In particular, Dr Carmel Harrington’s presentation on sleep quality and deficit left a lasting impression. The combination of how well and how long we sleep is critical and as many travellers will attest, long and rested sleep is often difficult to come by. Worse still, habitually short-changing our 7-9 genuine hours of rested sleep can be masked by our conscious selves… in short, I could have convinced myself that I was good to continue, even if I wasn’t.

So I did stop at the right time. The shadows were lengthening, I’d covered a good distance, sunrise will be earlier and I need to adjust to a new timezone. Here’s to a good nights sleep.

PERTH TO ADELAIDE WITH CONFIDENCE AND COMFORT

There’s no way I’d have set off across country if I wasn’t going to be confident and comfortable in the vehicle I’m driving. Those of you reading who are involved in the automotive industry know  the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is a capable vehicle and that the criteria I was expecting was always going to be met. Quite frankly i’ve seen many older and far less impressive vehicles traversing the country over the last couple of days and I wouldn’t swap places.

This is the main highway across our country and thousands upon thousands traverse it every year, it’s one of the great road trips but honestly, I’m not beating a path through virgin scrub. Nevertheless, it’s  not without risk or potential discomfort.

I’m not a professional driver or automotive technician, I’m a fleet manager working to deliver the best mobile workplace possible. I’m also the average driver, with my own preferences, capabilities and shortcomings, likes and dislikes. I know when I feel confident and secure on the road and I know what concerns me.

I have to praise the PHEV for it’s performance on the highway, putting aside the frugal fuel consumption, the vehicle really impresses with its passing power. It also feels rocksteady even on  less than pristine sections of highway and handles well on the occasional bend (we are talking the Nullarbor). I’ve already talked about  the adaptive cruise, AEB and lane departure features on top of 5 Star ANCAP,  as a whole package the car just leaves you feeling confident, comfortable and safe in the drivers seat.

Given it also has plenty of carrying capacity for my luxury rollout swag, coffee machine, milk frother and soft pillow, I’m really quite impressed… and comfortable outside the car as well.

More info about Tim’s trip can be found at the Fleet Strategy and Launch Site webesites

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