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Fuel-saving technologies provide different results

Eco-Run proves official fuel-consumption figures can be achieved in the real world

Published: June 22, 2013, 6:00 AM

AJAC Eco-Run 2013

The recent Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) Eco-Run, from Ottawa to Montreal, produced some interesting results with respect to the relative merits of different fuel-saving technologies and the effect of driving style on fuel economy.

Key observations and conclusions were:

> When drivers deliberately apply fuel-efficient driving techniques they can achieve some remarkably low fuel-consumption figures.

> The overall average fuel-consumption for the 22 vehicles in the Eco-Run was just 5.5 L/100 km, which exacty equals the average combined official fuel-consumption figures published in Natural Resources Canada's Energuide for the same vehicles.

> The majority of the individual vehicles bettered their official ratings, proving that they are in fact attainable in the real world when the vehicles are driven in a fuel-efficient manner.

> That average also bettered the government's proposed fleet-average fuel-consumption target for 2025 (approximately 5.6 L/100 km). While the Eco-Run fleet does not represent the same distribution as that of the total vehicle parc, the result is encouraging nonetheless, demonstrating that the target is potentially achievable with a broad mix of vehicle types.

The 22 vehicles in the Eco-Run encompassed a wide range of fuel-efficient technologies and powerplants, from battery-electric through plug-in and conventional hybrids, to advanced gasoline and diesel engines.

They ranged in size and type from sub-compact through compact cars to a full-size SUV and a pickup truck.

While no statistically valid conclusions can be drawn from the results in terms of car-to-car comparisons, several trends are apparent with respect to technologies:

> On a pure energy-efficiency basis, battery-electric vehicles (EVs) are by far the most efficient in both city and highway operation – for those whose lifestyle can accommodate the limited range and long recharge times inherent in EV use.

> Plug-in hybrids were the next-most-efficient as a group, achieving significantly better fuel economy than conventional hybrids in city driving, where they were able to operate in electric mode for much of the relatively short trips.

> Hybrids, as a group, had lower fuel consumption than gasoline or diesel vehicles overall, with a greater advantage apparent in city driving than on the highway. They were, however, the only group that did not better their official fuel-consumption ratings in the context of the Eco-Run.

> While hybrids excelled in city operation, when comparing vehicles of similar size and type the best of the gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles were as good as or better than some of the hybrids on the highway.

> The diesel-powered vehicles tended to be slightly more fuel-efficient than their direct gasoline counterparts in highway operation, but not in city operation.

The Eco-Run also demonstrated that consumers now have a broad range of fuel-efficient technologies available from which to choose, in a variety of vehicle types and sizes to suit every purpose.