0 Comment

2013 Toronto Auto Show: Fuel-efficient cars out in full force

  • Choosing a car at dealership. Thoughtful grey hair man in formalwear leaning at the car and looking away

Looking to check out the latest in fuel-efficient technologies? The Canadian International AutoShow is the place to do it.

In fact, there’s a special area of the show dedicated to just that purpose.

Called the Eco-Drive Showcase, it made its first appearance at the CIAS last year, delighting show-goers with its forest-like setting and tweeting birds, as well as its straight-forward explanations of a broad range of technologies.

It’s back again for 2013 in a new location on the 800 level of the South Metro Toronto Convention Centre — the same level as the major automakers’ displays.

The purpose of the showcase is to show that there is not just one but a broad range of solutions to the challenge of improving energy efficiency.

To that end, it groups vehicles from a dozen manufacturers together in groups that illustrate similar technologies, including advanced conventional technologies, diesels, hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery-electric vehicles.

Each of those areas also has signs answering frequently asked questions about the technology.

Signs alongside the vehicles list their Natural Resources Canada fuel-consumption ratings, or energy equivalent for electric-powered vehicles.

From the entrance to the Eco-Drive Showcase, at the base of the main escalator down to the 800 level, the featured technologies progress from conventional engines and drivetrains through increasing levels of electrification as you move deeper into the exhibit.

Advanced conventional technologies

A whole range of new and evolving technologies are combining to make the old gasoline engine significantly more fuel-efficient than it’s ever been.

The now-widespread use of direct fuel injection, when combined with a turbocharger, enhances efficiency while maintaining a given level of maximum performance. But it also permits the use of a smaller engine that is more economical to run in most normal driving conditions.

The Mercedes-Benz B 250 in the display has that combination of technologies, along with an automatic stop-start system and more-efficient dual-clutch automatic transmission, all of which help contribute to an 18-per cent reduction in its rated fuel consumption compared to the less-powerful model it replaces.

A Kia Rio LX + Eco also features auto stop-start and a Subaru XV Crosstek illustrates the use of a continuously-variable-transmission. CVTs and multi-speed transmissions (six-, seven-, eight- and nine-speeds) allow engines to operate within a narrower, more efficient speed range.

A Mazda3 within that grouping has that company’s Skyactiv suite of technologies — a holistic, clean-sheet approach to the design of almost every aspect of the drivetrain and body structure with reduced weight and improved efficiency the goals.

Clean diesels

Clean diesel technology is represented in the display by a Porsche Cayenne, but there are many more diesels on the greater show floor, including new entries from Chevrolet, Audi, Jeep and Mazda.

There’s good reason that diesels are the engine of choice throughout much of Europe: They’re inherently more fuel-efficient as well as providing better low-end response.

Gasoline hybrids

Hybrids, which supplement gasoline-engine usage with power from an electric motor and battery pack, are now part of the automotive mainstream, with new models being added every year.

They’re represented here by Honda’s updated CR-Z, an Infiniti M35h and a new-for-2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid.

The Jetta is the first hybrid to feature a turbocharged gasoline engine, bringing a level of sportiness to what has until now been a somewhat sedate market segment.

Range-extended hybrids

The Chevrolet Volt was the first of the so-called range-extended or plug-in hybrids, which permit battery charging from an external electrical source rather than just on-board generation as with conventional hybrids.

Plugging in overnight enables several kilometres of electric-only operation before the gasoline engine starts up.

The Volt is joined in the display by a Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid and two new entries from Ford — a C-Max Energi and a Fusion Energi.

Battery electric vehicles

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs), as the name implies, are powered solely by batteries, which must be recharged by plugging into an external outlet. They’re represented in Eco-Drive by the newest variants of the Ford Focus EV, Mitsubishi iMiEV, Nissan Leaf and Smart Electric Drive.

Given that driving range is a major concern with BEVs, accompanying signage shows the estimated range for the individual vehicles.

To add a little eye candy, there’s also a pair of Tesla S BEVs in a supplier’s booth at the entrance to the exhibit.

If you’re at all interested in what’s being done to reduce your fuel-cost burden, the Eco-Drive Showcase is a must-see feature of the auto show.

  • 2013 Toronto Auto Show: Fuel-efficient cars out in full force

Show Comments