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2018 EcoRun surpasses all expectations

AJAC EcoRun continues to be showcase for fuel-efficient vehicles, driving

Published: June 27, 2018, 10:30 PM
Updated: July 3, 2018, 4:39 PM

Volkswagen Jetta on the 2018 AJAC EcoRun in New Brunswick

MONCTON, N.B. – The 2018 AJAC EcoRun, organized by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, continues to demonstrate to consumers that reducing pain at the pump can be readily achieved by simply driving more efficiently.

2018 AJAC EcoRun in New Brunswick door sign

This year, 19 AJAC journalists drove 19 different vehicles through the gorgeous New Brunswick landscape, covering 570 kilometres of urban and secondary roads, as well as multilane highways, while attempting to be as frugal as possible with the fuel.

No “hypermiling” was tolerated. Drivers were required to maintain the posted speed-limits but were encouraged to be as efficient as possible with the “go pedal.” They applied such fuel saving techniques as avoiding hard acceleration on launch, looking ahead to plan overtaking moves as efficiently as possible, rolling up to stops rather than having to brake hard, respecting the posted speed limits and avoiding needless idling.

Chevrolet Bolt setting off on the 2018 AJAC EcoRun in New Brunswick

When the results were tallied, not a single driver had exceeded the fuel efficiency ratings posted by Natural Resources Canada. In fact, in the seven years EcoRun has been held, there has never been a driver who hasn’t at least matched, and in most cases beaten, the NRCan ratings.

When the event was launched in 2012, participants were required to take an online course on fuel-efficient driving and the lessons learned have continued to be shared and applied to the latest contingent of drivers.

On-road consumption lower than NRCan ratings

Ford EcoSport during the 2018 AJAC EcoRun in New Brunswick

This year, those efforts resulted in a combined fuel consumption average for the EcoRun fleet of 4.86 L/100 km, compared to NRCan's fleet average of 6.45 L/100 km. Among the 19 entries, the new Mazda6 mid-sized sedan and Ford EcoSport 1.0L sub-compact crossover had the biggest variances from the official government ratings – the Mazda6 beat its posted rate by 2.68 L/100 km over the 2-day drive; the EcoSport bettered its NRCan rating by 2.45 L/100 km.

In the interests of full disclosure, there was added motivation to squeeze the best fuel efficiency out of the vehicles. Journalists being journalists, a bit of competition never hurts, so an award – the Canadian Fuels Association Green Jersey – is presented to the driver who posts the best fuel efficiency results. It’s just a green T-shirt, but its value to the recipient is priceless.

2018 AJAC EcoRun participants at lunch stop in New Brunswick

This year, veteran journalist Jim Kerr of Saskatoon earned the honour by accumulating 14.3 points, outpacing 2-time jersey winner Jim Kenzie of Milton, Ontario, who scored 13.6 points. (Green Jersey scoring is an accumulation of handicaps and bonus points to go along with fuel saved over the six legs of the event.)

The other goal of EcoRun is to show consumers the latest fuel-saving technologies and alternate-fuel vehicles auto manufacturers are offering (or bringing in the near future) to the Canadian marketplace. For example, in its first iteration, EcoRun was a 3-day jaunt in Ontario from Brighton to London, mimicking the historic London to Brighton Veteran Car Run held annually in England.

In the first EcoRun, 18 brands entered vehicles in the event, including four pure electric cars and a pair of hybrids, all showcasing the latest advancements in fuel efficiency.

Mixed bag of sizes and fuel sources

2018 AJAC EcoRun participants at lunch stop in New Brunswick

This year, 19 eco-friendly vehicles from 15 manufacturers participated. The entries ranged in size, from minivan and SUVs to family sedans and subcompacts. The vehicles’ power came from a variety of sources, including a pair of pure electrics, 11 plug-in and conventional hybrid powertrains, diesel-fuelled and highly-efficient gasoline engines, plus one vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell – a technology that was only in experimental stages seven years ago.

The advances in technology in the years since EcoRun began are impressive. Range for electrics, for example, has more than doubled with advances in battery technology. In 2012, organizers had to keep the driving segments to 50-60 kilometres to ensure the EVs didn’t run out of power. EcoRun logistics manager Jim Koufis, who’s been a key part of the EcoRun organizing team since Day 1, said the EV driving distances this year would never have been imagined back in 2012.

2018 AJAC EcoRun setting off in New Brunswick

As well, provincial and municipal governments, and private enterprises such as Flo (which was a key EcoRun sponsor), have dramatically improved the recharging infrastructure to make driving distances with an EV a practical reality. In waving off this year’s run, New Brunswick Finance Minister Cathy Rogers noted the province has installed 49 charging stations in just the past year, including 18 rapid-charging Level 3 units.

Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold, who shared the green flag-waving duties, said her city, too, was actively boosting EV mobility, with a charging station installed right downtown at City Hall. She also noted the city is adopting clean EV vehicles for its municipal fleet.

We’ve come a long way in 7 years

Hyundai Ioniq charging during the 2018 AJAC EcoRun in New Brunswick

In retrospect, supplying power to the EVs in the first few EcoRun events required towing a large portable diesel generator along the route. Every 50-60 kilometres, the pickup truck towing the rig would stop in a parking lot, the charging stations would be unloaded and connected to the generator, and the EVs would then gather round for a “fill-up,” which would typically take a few hours. Not only was it impractical and inefficient, the optics were unacceptable, but there was no alternative. Range was limited by battery technology and recharging stations were rare.

“The route and distances we were able to use this year could never have been considered even a year ago,” said Koufis. At a couple of remote venues, such as the Snider Mountain Ranch where the tour made a stop on Day 1, the Flo-supplied charging stations were temporarily installed to facilitate the recharging of the EVs and plug-in hybrids, but more typically the procedure was handled at permanent stations along the route.

Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e charging during the 2018 AJAC EcoRun in New Brunswick

Below is the list (in alphabetical order) of the participating vehicles in the 2018 AJAC EcoRun, along with their fuel consumption rates in L/100 km for the event, and their official NRCan ratings:

Vehicle EcoRun NRCan
Chevrolet Bolt 1.8 2.0
Chevrolet Equinox Diesel 5.8 7.4
Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid 6.4 *5.5
Ford EcoSport 6.0 8.4
Ford Fusion Energi 4.2 *4.26
Honda Clarity Plug-In 2.5 *3.12
Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In 3.0 *3.35
Kia Optima Plug-In 4.1 *4.24
Lexus LS 500h 8.0 9.1
Mazda6 5.3 8.0
Mazda CX-3 7.2 8.2
Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e 7.0 *7.35
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 5.6 *6.2
Nissan Kicks 5.9 7.2
Nissan Leaf 1.8 *2.1
Toyota Camry Hybrid 4.8 5.1
Toyota Prius Prime 2.9 *2.78
Volkswagen Jetta 5.3 7.0

* plug-in hybrid vehicles are gas consumption only and do not account for electricity used

Showcase, not a competition

Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e charging during the 2018 AJAC EcoRun in New Brunswick

Since the EcoRun is a showcase and not a competition among the participating vehicles, there is no “winner,” other than consumers, who will hopefully use this information to help choose the size and type of vehicle that best suits their needs, as well as the technology that’s most appropriate for the type of driving they do on a regular basis.

EVs, for example are ideally suited for the stop-and-go demands of urban driving and range limitation is not an issue. If your daily commute is lengthy and/or you do a lot of highway driving, hybrids may be better suited for your driving needs, especially the plug-in types which can continue running on their high-efficiency gasoline engines once the battery source of power is depleted.

With the prospect of government subsidies for EVs and hybrids being unplugged (in Ontario, at least), don’t overlook conventional gasoline powertrains. New technologies such as stop/start features that eliminate needless idling at stoplights, as well as high-efficiency powertrain technologies such as Mazda’s SkyActiv system deliver remarkable fuel efficiency.

Smart Fortwo electric on the 2018 AJAC EcoRun in New Brunswick - Although not part of the 2018 AJAC EcoRun, the Smart Fortwo electric put in an appearance at the start as a send-off.

Fuel costs will continue to rise, so the best way for you to reduce the pain is to choose the vehicle that most efficiently suits your needs – and then drive it like these pros.