The EV Powered Interview

Going for gold with green world record-holder Kevin Booker

Kevin Booker is the holder of four Guinness World Records for ultra-efficient EV driving, so we sat down with him to find out how he got into the record-breaking business, the challenges in getting from John o’ Groats to Lands End with just one stop, and the surprising EV he’s most excited about this year

Tell us about how you got involved in setting world records

It started when I started a job which was a significant distance driving. I used to drive a 70-mile round trip and that can be quite boring. So I started to gamify the journey, and that was in fuel cars.

I tried to see if I could get to work in a similar time but using less fuel. There were lots of rural roads so there were lots of opportunities to optimise your driving style and I honed it from that. Moving on from that, I saw a magazine called Fleet World advertised for an MPG marathon. So I thought I’d enter that. And that’s where it all began. 

How do you then go from a magazine’s MPG challenge to attempting Guinness World Records? 

I met BBC journalist Paul Clifton and Fergal McGrath, who was a Honda R&D engineer, and we were always competing against each other on MPG marathons and we thought, actually, why don’t we team up and do an electric vehicle record?

And then we came across the idea, well, let’s do the John o’ Groats to Land’s End in an EV and see what we could get. And that was where the Ford Mustang Mach-e record started. The records are the most efficient from John o’ Groats to Land’s End in the Ford Mustang Mach-E — which is about 6.5miles/kWh — doing it in one charge stop and that one charge stop was 43 minutes and 17 seconds [the shortest overall charging time on the route].

The latest one is where Fergal and I teamed up with Sam Clark from Gridserve to do the longest distance to a single charge in a van, which is 311 miles.

Clearly these record attempts are a major undertaking, so tell us about the process. 

A lot of the time goes into the preparation. You don’t just get in the car and go, you’ve got to check things because it’s all about the tiny returns you get on stuff.

So almost like if you were doing a racing cycling team where there’s lots of little things that you need to have tested to the extreme. The wheel alignment, for example, has to be spot on. Not like you go to a local tyre dealer and get the vehicle aligned but done to manufacturer’s standard. It’s even the tyres. You make sure you’ve got the A-rated tyres and you don’t just put a brand new set on them. You’ve got to then bed them into the car because the new ones will not be as efficient because you haven’t worn them in. So you have to put a few thousand miles on the car. And it’s just all those little tiny things like making sure it’s got a good state of health on the battery.

World Record breaking Ford Mustang Mach-E
Kevin and his teammates set three records in a single drive from John o’ Groats to Lands End

Then you try to eliminate as many potential problems in the testing phase because you’ve got a lot of responsibilities to sponsors and people. 

The problem is that you can’t control the weather and the worst thing for efficiency and range on an EV is lots of surface water. Probably the hairiest moment on the Mustang record was driving over the hilly part of Bodmin, near the end, where there was loads of surface water and you could see the car’s estimated range dropping below what we had left to do. 

When we were five miles away, it said ‘battery depleted stop safely now’. And we kept on going. With all the logging equipment, we could see the ‘true’ figure on how many usable kilowatt hours were left. So when it said zero, we knew the Mustang had a reasonably big buffer, but we were still thinking ‘Oh, are we going to get there?’

Was there a reason you chose the Mustang Mach-E?

Ford were really good and helpful as sponsors, and in testing it genuinely surprised us as an efficient car. If you drive a Mach-E gently — not trying to hypermile — with the extended range, 400 miles is achievable. And we got over 500, so it’s genuinely a good, efficient car. 

When we had it, it had an 89 kilowatt hour usable battery. They’ve actually slightly tweaked the safety margins on it, so it’s now 92 kilowatt hours usable. So possibly the only thing that could beat our record is the Mustang Mach-E with the slightly revised battery settings.

So would you give it another shot now with the slightly revised model? 

No, why would you go after your own records again? 

At some point, a car will beat that efficiency record because you’ve got solid state batteries coming and things like that. So there will be cars that beat it. I’d rather beat it by a significant margin.

The ultimate one for us would be doing John o’ Groats to Land’s End in one charge. 

Do you think that’s something that is going to be possible in the next few years? 

With the jump to solid state batteries, I think that will be the point where they do that. 

The only thing that depends on is whether manufacturers use that to reduce the size of the battery so you’ve got similar range. Because do they need to make a 1,000-mile battery? You’re carting a lot of battery around for not much reason because solid state will be able to charge in excess of 200 kilowatts. So do you need to carry that around? I think manufacturers maybe should go away and actually focus on more efficient cars. So doing more with less.

That’s on the horizon but what’s coming soon that you’re excited about?

I actually quite like the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N. I think that’ll do a lot to change petrolheads’ perception of EVs.

We all know EVs are quick, but I think the Ioniq 5 N has the noise and the theatre, it does little things like the downshifts. It’s almost like an EV that’s been built to appeal to a petrolhead. 

hyundai ioniq 5 n in soultronic orange
The Hyundai Ioniq 5 N is among the new EVs Kevin believes could turn more drivers onto electric motoring

Will that help make EVs appealing to more people?

I think cars like that will, because there are people who want sporty cars and that’s kind of got the theatre of the sporty car with it still.

There are some things which will hurt its efficiency, but if you’re buying that type of car you’re not going to be massively worried about the efficiency. When you think of it, if you compared that to a 600bhp petrol car and how thirsty a 600bhp fuel car would be, it’s pretty good. I reckon driven gently, you’d get three miles per kilowatt hour out of that. So you’re talking the equivalent of over a hundred MPG-e. So actually you can have both worlds.

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Matt Allan

Matt is Editor of EV Powered. He has worked in journalism for more than 20 years and been an automotive journalist for the last decade, covering every aspect of the industry, from new model reveals and reviews to consumer and driving advice. The former motoring editor of, The Scotsman and National World, Matt has watched the EV landscape transform beyond recognition over the last 10 years and developed a passion for electric vehicles and what they mean for the future of transport - from the smallest city cars to the biggest battery-powered trucks. When he’s not driving or writing about electric cars, he’s figuring out how to convert his classic VW camper to electric power.