If ever there was a situation that demonstrated the value of automatic start-stop technology it was driving the second leg of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada's (AJAC) Brighton-to-London Eco-Run today in a vehicle that lacked that technology.
Yesterday brought us from Brighton to Centennial College in Scarborough on a mix of urban roads, rural highways and expressway. Today's trek, from Scarborough to McMaster University in Hamilton was all urban and suburban.
Conditions on the second leg, through the middle of downtown Toronto were nothing short of brutal in terms of fuel consumption, with periods of stop and idle at every intersection and often in between.
My average speed for the first 12 km or so was just 12.6 km/h, according to the instrument readout in the Chevrolet Cruze Eco I was driving.
At almost every stop, while the car was sitting and the engine idling, I watched the average fuel-consumption readout increase another tenth.
When your engine is running and you're not moving, your rate of fuel consumption is infinite. Or, stated in terms that may be easier to comprehend, you're getting zero miles-per-gallon!
By the time I got out of the city core, the average consumption had crept up to 13.0 L/100 km, and that was with me on my very best fuel-efficient driving behaviour.
Although I didn't keep precise track of the time, it seemed that I was stopped as much as I was moving. That's time that I wouldn't have been using any gasoline if the vehicle had an auto-stop-start system.
That's not a criticism of the Cruze Eco – it's a very fuel-efficient car and after another 30 km or so, in less-congested suburban conditions, the average speed had increased to 22.2 km/h and the average rate of consumption had dropped back to 8.5 L/100 km.
But it is a vivid illustration of the potential value of an auto-stop-start system in real city traffic.
Apart from hybrids, such systems are only available on a very few vehicles in North America, although they have become almost the norm in Europe.
Expect to see them become a lot more common here in the near future.
Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) representatives are processing data from all the cars over the whole event and may be able to shed further light on the value of stop-start systems when their analysis is completed.
NRCan is a participating partner in the Eco-Run, along with the CAA and Schneider Electric.
What their analysis of today's driving already demonstrates is that it's tougher, though not impossible, to equal the Energuide fuel-consumption ratings in the kind of traffic encountered in the city car than in more moderate conditions.
Only one of the 15 vehicles monitored surpassed its Energuide city fuel-consumption rating on the driving leg through the city core – conditions further exacerbated by heavy rain – whereas 70-to-80% of those vehicles bettered their combined-cycle ratings (55% city; 45% highway) in yesterday's mixed driving conditions.
On the more suburban third leg of today's schedule, 58% exceeded the city rating and 83% the combined rating – proving once again that it can be done with careful driving in all but the most extreme conditions.
Which is one of the points the Eco-Run is intended to make.
The AJAC Brighton-to-London Eco-Run is a mobile demonstration of fuel-efficient and fuel-alternative technologies that are or soon will be available to consumers.
Just as important as demonstrating the broad range of technologies that can help ease the burden of increasing gasoline prices is spreading the message that how you drive your vehicle, whatever it is, plays a major role in how much energy it will consume.