The 2016 edition of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada's (AJAC) EcoRun travels from Toronto to Ottawa with nine stops along the way, beginning on June 2.
The AJAC EcoRun – now in its fifth year – is an annual showcase of eco-friendly vehicles. All types of vehicles are welcome and this year a variety of pure electrics, plug-in and conventional hybrids, hydrogen fuel cells, diesel-fuelled powertrains and highly-efficient gasoline options make up the 2016 field of 27 entries.
The 27 cars will be driven by 27 of the top AJAC journalists from across the country. These journalists represent many of the most popular automotive and mass-media outlets in Canada.
The event has come along way since its inception back in 2012, when it traveled from Brighton to London in Ontario (a nod to Britain’s historic Brighton-to-London run). AJAC’s objective was to help educate consumers on alternative vehicles and green-focused technologies. It was a chance to showcase what vehicles exist and what they offer in terms of fuel efficiency, as well as money saved.
For the past five years, the automotive industry has seen an expansion of green vehicles. Each automaker has attempted to lower its fuel economy ratings in order to achieve mandated government goals, as well as the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.
Throughout the years, the EcoRun has witnessed a growth in alternative powertrains with the addition of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to go with the regular pure electric, diesel and hybrid players. The biggest expansion, however, has been the improved competitiveness from highly-efficient pure gasoline models.
Since the onset of the EcoRun, official NRCan fuel economy ratings have been continuously surpassed by the vehicle entrants - proving not only that the vehicles are capable of that performance but that how they're driven plays a major role. In 2015, the EcoRun went west to Vancouver Island and saw 18 of its 19 vehicles best their combined NRCan fuel consumption ratings. Even more impressive, was the fact that 11 of those 19 combined fuel economy scores actually trumped the official highway ratings.
The AJAC EcoRun is not about awards, nor competition. It focuses its attention on the vehicles and provides accurate Canadian road test results that help consumers be aware of these vehicles and evaluate them based on the numbers achieved.
The EcoRun can also be a showcase for future technology and green vehicles, so there are no rules that vehicles have to be on sale. The event truly represents what is currently offered and what technologies and vehicles are coming to us in the future.
The event may not be a competition among vehicles, but there's an internal one for the AJAC journalists involved. Each year, the Michelin Green Jersey is handed out at the end of the run to the journalist that achieves the best fuel economy ratings thanks to eco-friendly driving techniques.
The last three winners of the jersey have been: Chris Chase (2015); Jim Kenzie (2014) and Michael Bettencourt (2013).
There are many ways to drive more fuel-efficiently and each AJAC journalist will attempt to so in order to receive the coveted Michelin Green Jersey.
One of the key eco driving fundamentals is to survey the road around you and not rush into any hard braking, unless needed. A better plan is to take your foot off the gas when you see a slowdown in traffic ahead and ease into a full stop. There's no need to stomp down on the accelerator when the light turns green; instead gently press down on the throttle to get up to speed.
AJAC journalists from across the country will arrive in Toronto on June 2 to start a two-day journey from Toronto to Ottawa. During that trip, stops will be made in Oshawa, Cobourg, Belleville, Picton, Kingston, Brockville and eventually to our nation's capital of Ottawa for the closing ceremonies.
The 2016 AJAC EcoRun didn't choose Ontario by fluke. It's easy to run an event that includes electric vehicles in Quebec or British Columbia with the plethora of charging stations that surround their major cities and beyond. The province of Ontario's charging infrastructure is growing, but not at the rate of the other two.
With a new Climate Change Strategy for Ontario in the works that sees $20 million coming from the Ontario Green Investment Fund, Ontario is expected to receive a combined total of 500 new Level 2 and Level 3 charging stations installed by March 31, 2017.
There are usually some guest speakers during the route and this year will feature the Honourable Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation, who will be speaking at the EcoRun's opening ceremonies at Toronto's Evergreen Brick Works on the morning of June 2.
There will be other various speakers from our partners at the Canadian Fuels Association, the Smart Drive Challenge, Scout Environmental and the Canadian Automobile Association. A government representative in Ottawa should be on hand for the closing ceremonies at Ottawa's City Hall, but who that person is has yet to be confirmed.
As mentioned, there are a variety of cars at this year's EcoRun – the biggest field in its five-year history. There's no limit to the size of vehicle showcased, as they range from subcompacts to pickup trucks.
This event will feature its most anticipated car in the Toyota Mirai – a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that is not expected to come to Canada until 2020. The Mirai makes a special appearance on the EcoRun, allowing Canadian journalists to test it on Canadian roads for the first time. The Mirai produces 153 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque and can be run for 550 km on hydrogen.
There are five plug-in hybrids on this adventure, including the Hyundai Sonata, Mercedes-Benz S500e, Chevrolet Volt, Ford C-Max Energi and the Volvo XC90 T8.
They can all go extended distances due to gasoline engines, but they will be charged up at most of the stops along the EcoRun to maximize their fuel economy numbers.
The Nissan Leaf will be the lone pure electric representative on EcoRun. It's the first time this has happened, as most automakers wanted to showcase many of its other fuel-efficient vehicles.
The Leaf will be in SL trim featuring a new 30 kWh battery that delivers an estimated range of 172 km on a full charge, well beyond the largest driving leg (96 km) on EcoRun.
Conventional hybrids combine two or more distinct types of power, most commonly a gasoline engine and an electric motor. You get the best of both worlds without having to plug anything in.
The hybrid models involved in the EcoRun are the Chevrolet Malibu, Toyota Rav4, Lexus RX 450h and the Lexus CT 200h. It's a lot of action-packed Toyota excitement in this field, and this will be the first time Canadians will be able to drive in the Malibu Hybrid.
It's been an interesting year for diesel, to say the least, but diesel has always been an exciting option in the truck market and Chevrolet wanted to show off its Colorado diesel truck on EcoRun.
The Colorado diesel has a new 2.8-litre Duramax turbo-diesel engine that produces 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque thanks to a high pressure common rail injection system. It has a maximum trailer rating of 3,943 kg.
The majority of vehicles entered fall under the gasoline engine category, as automakers attempt to lessen weight within their models and create lighter, more-efficient engines.
Here's a list of the vehicles you will see on the EcoRun: Chevrolet Cruze, Chevrolet Spark, Fiat 500 1957 Edition, Ford Focus 1.0-litre, Honda Civic sedan, Honda HR-V, Kia Optima LX Eco Turbo, Mazda CX-3, Mazda CX-9, Mazda MX-5, Nissan Altima, Smart fortwo Cabrio, Subaru Impreza, and Porsche 911 Carrera.
To put on the 2016 AJAC EcoRun, AJAC’s EcoRun organizing committee has worked with various partners: Natural Resources Canada, the Canadian Fuels Association (CFA), Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), Michelin North America (Canada) Inc., the Smart Drive Challenge, Scout Environmental and the Chemical Guys Canada Auto Detailing.
In addition, 15 automakers help make this event possible by entering their vehicles for the event.
As has been the case every year, AJAC hopes to demonstrate that exceptional fuel economy numbers are achievable with today’s vehicles and technologies combined with good driving habits. Last year, a base five-speed Nissan Micra achieved an overall fuel consumption of 5.5 L/100 km taking top honours for all conventional gasoline vehicles. During one particular leg from Victoria to North Saanich, the Micra actually recorded 4.4 L/100 km.
In addition, the 2016 EcoRun will provide a great opportunity to show all of these fuel-efficient vehicles around Ontario ahead of the influx of charging infrastructure investment by Ontario's liberal government.
Autofile contributor Clare Dear will be on-hand and taking part in the 2016 AJAC EcoRun. Watch for his report on the event and how each car performs when it is over.
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