by: Jag Dhatt
It’s an award you don’t really don’t brag about, yet at the same time, it’s an award that makes quite an impact, especially on your wallet. Most of us journalists love to drive high output, octane hungry vehicles because, come on, they’re just fun! While putting the pedal to the metal creates ear-to-ear smiles on many drivers’ faces, it does little to help those fuel efficiency numbers. Aaahh…yes, those numbers that we all care about in principle, but do little to follow in reality. And this holds especially true for me; during my younger years, I drove taxi to help pay for university costs. While not as extreme as New York taxi drivers, I still picked up the nasty habit of driving fast, which had stuck with me, until now. At this year’s AJAC EcoRun Challenge, yours truly won second place – yep, a podium finish for a rookie; and an unlikely title for a driver like me.
For the past 5 years, AJAC has held its annual EcoRun challenge, an event that tests the fuel efficiency ratings of many vehicles in real life situations. For 2016, our test fleet of 27 vehicles included everything from the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf to the Porsche 911 Carrera and Chevrolet Colorado. In fact, there was even the one-of-a-kind Toyota Mirai. So yes, we did test vehicles that an average Canadian would own and drive on a regular basis.
EcoRun 2016 had a spectacular planned route from Toronto to Ottawa, with various destination hosts along the way. Over a span of two days, each journalist drove one of eight assigned cars through city, suburban and highway legs. Here are some of my personal highlights during this trek.
Evergreen Brickworks (Toronto, Ontario)
The first leg took us on the 401 – not a great driving experience due to tonnes of traffic, but the destination was spectacular. Evergreen Brickworks was a brick-making plant that has been transformed into a modern environmental centre, which now has facilities for children to learn about the environment and space that caters to weddings, just to name a few. I was driving the Mazda MX-5 and got amazing fuel economy – I’m was off to a good start.
University of Toronto Institute of Technology
With empty stomachs and full bladders, most of us were eager to get here. The UTIT houses one of the world’s largest wind tunnels, which is used to test drag in vehicles. The facility also demonstrated some great technology that tests vibrations by mimicking various road conditions. This time, I was driving the Lexus CT200h and once again, was well under the manufacturer specs for fuel economy.
A beautiful place to stop, recharge some of the vehicles, and enjoy some ice cream. The EcoRun vehicles were staged on the pier and the backdrop of Lake Ontario provided for some great photography. This time I was driving the Kia Optima and wow, did I smoke the manufacturer numbers for fuel efficiency.
Belleville and the Mustang Drive-in
After driving on some great scenic roads, we ended up at the hotel where we were scheduled to spend the night. As a bonus, there was dinner and a movie at the Mustang Drive-in. Fresh made chicken sandwiches, drinks sans-alcohol, and great conversations. Then, got into the Chevy Cruze and watched Captain America: Civil War.
For this leg, I was driving the Toyota Prius and this car just oozes fuel efficiency, even with A/C on. We had a tour of Canada’s Penitentiary Museum, where not only did I see some spectacular history, but also picked up a souvenir for my one-year old daughter.
A great spot for a break, some food, and recharge the cars’ batteries. The day was getting quite warm, so it was nice to grab some cold soft drinks and enjoy discussing our efficiency ratings. I found out that my driving efficiency was quite good again, with the Honda Civic giving some great numbers.
For the last leg, I was driving the award-winning Volvo XC90 Plug-in Hybrid. This leg was mostly highway driving, and the Volvo performed quite well for a large vehicle; yet, had the battery been charged fully, my numbers would have been even better. We ended at City Hall in Ottawa where all cars were staged and the final press conference took place.
Results and Conclusions
AJAC’s EcoRun 2016 once again proved that vehicles, including big trucks and sports car, of today can be fuel efficient, if driven properly. Now, I know that anyone buying a Porsche doesn’t really care about pesky fuel efficiency numbers, but what was amazing was that even this 370 horsepower sports car gave an average 6.3L/100 km – for most of us, that’s hybrid vehicle territory.
Every journalist at this year’s EcoRun was told specifically not to hypermile – no following a transport truck, driving well under the speed limit, or cutting off the engine during downhills – to simulate real life conditions. In the end, 100% of journalists beat the manufacturers’ ratings for fuel efficiency. That’s quite impressive!
When it was announced that I placed second, Jenn McCarthy said to me, “I thought you had a lead foot!” Well, normally I did; but EcoRun 2016 did something that I probably wouldn’t have done on my own. In the race for the coveted “Green Jersey”, I transformed into a better, greener driver. And what’s shocking to me, and my family even more, is that ever since the EcoRun 2016 “race”, I’ve become a more fuel-efficient driver in everyday life as well. Huh…who would have thought?
So yes, driving habits have a HUGE impact on the fuel efficiency, and probably the life, of your automobile. Here are some general tips to keep in mind:
- When leaving from a stop, accelerate slowly rather than putting the pedal to the metal.
- Anticipate traffic – if you see vehicles slowing down, let your car coast slowly rather than hitting the brakes hard.
- Follow speed limits – these are not only designed to keep you safe, but keep fuel efficiency numbers in the green zone.
- Don’t carry unnecessary cargo in the trunk – do you walk around with extra weight strapped to you? No, because it will slow you down and tire you out faster. Same concept with the car. Don’t keep your car’s trunk loaded with stuff.
- Keep the tires inflated to proper manufacturer specs.
I had a great time at this year’s EcoRun and look forward to next year, where I’ll be on the hunt for the Green Jersey once again. Jim Kenzie, you better be ready. For more information and details about EcoRun, visit www.ajac.ca and click on the EcoRun tab.