The world’s most fuel-efficient couple kicked off their latest record-setting venture on Monday, setting out from a Burbank gas station for a 23-day road trip around the continental U.S.
John and Helen Taylor hold 88 driving records, including the most efficient trips around the United States, South Africa and Britain. The Australians’ most recent stateside effort was in 2009 when they averaged 67.9 miles per gallon in a diesel, manual-transmission Volkswagen Jetta. The fuel bill for the 9,505-mile trip — $371.03.
As they fueled up a new Chevrolet Cruze at a Shell station on Hollywood Way at 6 a.m. Monday, John and Helen Taylor said the vehicle officially gets 42 miles per gallon. With a 12.6-gallon tank, they could travel about 520 miles per tank.
But they expect to far exceed that by using highly efficient driving techniques.
“Imagine being in a car with your partner, 23 days, 12 [to] 14 hours a day and not having one argument or swear word with each other, and enjoying the beautiful scenery you have in the country, meeting lots of wonderful people,” said John Taylor, 51.
The Taylors will travel the country counter-clockwise, heading east and driving at least 15 miles in all 48 continental states before eventually circling around to Las Vegas, a total distance of about 9,600 miles. They will stop at gas stations run by Shell, which is sponsoring the attempt, along the route where their mileage and fuel levels will be inspected and recorded by a station manager. Their progress can be tracked at www.shell.us/smartdriving.com.
The pair shares driving duties.
“I think we drive very similarly because we drive so much together that you pick up each other’s habits,” said Helen Taylor, 55.
Meals will include sandwiches, nuts and dried fruit, although they try not to eat much as they will be sedentary for the entirety of the 23-day trek, the Taylors said. Restroom stops are infrequent.
Helen Taylor was turned on to fuel-efficient driving out of necessity — she once found herself with just 72-cents for gas to get to a job interview. She arrived by accelerating very slowly.
“That just started me off,” Helen Taylor said. “I became a little bit addictive about seeing how far I could go with one tank of fuel.”
She later met her husband at a trial event for a fuel-efficient driving competition in Britain. They went on to found the Fuel Academy, a consulting firm that hosts fuel-efficient driving workshops.
Now married 30 years, their passion for economic travel has taken them around the world. Among their most memorable moments, they said, was encountering a cyclone in Western Australia during a 2006 drive around the world.
“The car started shaking violently,” Helen Taylor said. “Hail stones the size of golf balls started coming. All the trees that were quite big had all gone flattened. We didn’t think we were going to get out of that.”
The Taylors observe all manners of inefficient driving in the United States, they said, including motorists leave their car idling for long periods of time, those who rev their engines, or accelerate and brake aggressively. Changing those bad habits can increase fuel efficiency by as much as 30% and save motorists hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year, they said.
“There is a red light and the driver puts their foot down [and accelerates] as fast as they can get to that red light, and then they slam on the brakes,” Helen Taylor said. “It is very common driving behavior in the United States. If we could change that then that would make a big difference.”
[Editor’s note: This story has been updated from an earlier version to correct a mispelling.]