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EcoRun 2016 is about how you drive not what you drive

This year marked the fifth running of the annual event and brought together 27 vehicles ranging from one pure electric car (Nissan Leaf SL), to plug-in gas-electric hybrids

  • toyota mirai

AS an auto journalist I often get an opportunity to test eco-friendly and fuel-efficient vehicles.

But driving seven of them back-to-back over two days as I did during the recent Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) EcoRun from Toronto to Ottawa June 1-3 was a very interesting experience.

This year marked the fifth running of the annual event and brought together 27 vehicles ranging from one pure electric car (Nissan Leaf SL), to plug-in gas-electric hybrids (Volvo XC90 T8, Ford CMAX Energi, Mercedes-Benz S550e, Hyundai Sonata plug-in hybrid), and conventional hybrids (Toyota Prius, Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, Chevrolet Volt, Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, Lexus 450h and Lexus CT 200h).

The rest of the entries included fuel-efficient gasoline vehicles (Chevrolet Spark, Chevrolet Cruze, Fiat 500 1957 Edition, Ford Focus 1.0-litre, Smart fortwo cabriolet, Honda Civic Touring, Honda HR-V EX, Mazda CX3, Mazda CX-9, Mazda MX-5, Kia Optima LX Eco Turbo, Porsche Carrera, Nissan Altima 2.5 SL, Subaru Impreza) and the lone diesel entry, the Chevrolet Colorado pickup.

colorado

Rounding out the field was the Toyota Mirai, an exciting fuel cell car built in Japan and now sold in California.

This year’s fleet ranged in size from subcompacts to the full-size luxury 2016 Mercedes-Benz S 550e plug-in hybrid sedan and even the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado diesel pickup truck.

Throw in a 2017 Porsche 911 Carrera high-performance sports car and you have quite a mixture of vehicles that all have a “green” side to them if driven properly.

The purpose of the EcoRun is to give real-world fuel economy numbers to consumers and showcase some of the alternative options available to them.

The exercise also demonstrates how driving smoothly and efficiently can pay dividends when it comes to fuel economy.

And you don’t have to have a vehicle with all the fancy new technology to better your fuel economy.

Hints such as easing up on the speed, accelerating and braking smoothly and anticipating traffic situations ahead of you to prevent unnecessary stops can all help.

While it is not a competition, the drivers vie for the coveted “green” jersey for the best results adhering to fuel-efficient driving techniques.

But can you really achieve the numbers advertised by the manufacturers using laboratory testing by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)?

Our aim was to find out.

Over the two days, I was assigned seven vehicles to drive, starting with a 2016 Lexus CT 200h for a 35.2 km first leg from a Toronto airport-area hotel to the Evergreen Brickworks, just off the Don Valley Parkway.

The world’s first luxury hybrid hatchback, the CT 200h is a nimble little compact that took me to our first recharging station with an average of 3.5L/100 km of fuel consumption.

Next up, was the cute little Fiat 500 1957 Edition subcompact that used 5.5 L/100 km to do the 61 km second stage to the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT). At UOIT we got a glimpse of ACE (the Automotive Centre of Excellence), a multi-purpose testing and research centre that showcases a massive climatic wind tunnel and other research chambers.

The third leg took us from UOIT to the pretty lakeside town of Cobourg, a distance of 68.3 km.

Driving a 2016 Volvo XC90 T8, an interesting plug-in hybrid that offers both power and efficiency. During this mostly highway portion and using electric mode for part of the route, the Volvo turned in a number of 4.5 L/100 km— quite amazing for a spacious seven-seater that has a Natural Resources Canada rating of 10.1 L/100 km city and 8.8 highway.

volvo xc90 t9

Finally on Day One, I jumped into a 2016 Chevrolet Volt, recently named AJAC’s Green Car of the Year. Chevrolet calls the Volt an extended range electric vehicle that can reach up to 85 km in EV range before the 1.5-litre DOHC gasoline engine kicks in.

The route took us from Cobourg to Belleville, our stop for the night and at the end the fuel reading was 3.4 L/100 km.

volt

Next morning, I was in pickup country, piloting the Chevrolet Colorado diesel along rural roads from Belleville to Kingston. Rated at 12/6.2 L/100 km city/highway, I managed to coax a quite respectable 6.6 L/100 km out of the 2.8-litre turbo diesel.

Next up on the Kingston to Brockville leg was pure luxury as I hopped into the most expensive vehicle in the fleet, a $133,250 Mercedes-Benz S 550e plug-in hybrid. With a total system output of 436 hp and 479 lb/ft of torque and a 0-100 km/h time of 5.2 seconds, this luxury cruiser put in an impressive number of 7.1L/100 km over the 84 km leg.

Finally, we made our way to the finish line at an Ottawa-area hotel after a short stop at city hall for a few speeches and where all the vehicles were staged for photographers.

Fortunately for me, I had the luck of the draw on this leg and took it home in one of the most fun sports cars on the market, a Mazda MX-5 GS, recently named World Car of the Year for 2016.

I bettered the NRCan rating with every vehicle I drove and learned that it’s not what you drive, but how you drive it that really matters.

mazda mx-5

With the soft top up for better fuel economy, I managed a reading of 5.3L/100 km on the 126 km leg of both city and highway travel.

So how did we do compared to the NRCan numbers? Across the board, drivers bettered the posted numbers for each of the vehicles, in some cases by a huge margin. For example, the NRCan fuel efficiency rating for the Colorado Diesel is 10.3L/100 km and the journalists finished with an average of 7.1.

In my case, I bettered the NRCan rating with every vehicle I drove and learned that it’s not what you drive, but how you drive it that really matters.

While I didn’t win the coveted “green” jersey, I hope to be back again to give it another go.

For more on EcoRun, including a video (below) and the fuel consumption summary, visit www.ajac.ca and click on EcoRun.

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