Green machines: EcoRun 2016

by Harry Pegg . Jun 10 2016

EcoRun, an event designed to demonstrate the latest eco-friendly powertrains, brought 27 Automobile Journalist Association of Canada (AJAC) members from across the nation together to test 27 vehicles.

Vehicles tested included electrics, plug-in hybrids, regular hybrids, conventional gasoline and diesel systems and a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. The testing took place on public highways between Toronto and Ottawa.

Manufacturers involved included Chevrolet, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Lexus, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Porsche, Smart, Subaru, Toyota and Volvo.

The run’s opening ceremonies were at Toronto’s Evergreen Brickworks. Vehicles came in all shapes and sizes, from the tiny gasoline-powered Smart ForTwo cabriolet and Fiat 500 to the limo-like Mercedes-Benz S550e plug-in hybrid sedan, SUVs such as Volvo’s plug-in hybrid XC90 and crossovers including the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX3, Mazda CX9, Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, Lexus CT 200h and Lexus RX 450h.

The mix included Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell Mirai and unlikely economy candidates such as the Porsche 911 Carerra and Chevrolet’s Colorado diesel pickup.

Each of us was assigned seven vehicles, one for each leg of the journey. I started with Toyota’s RAV4 Hybrid followed by a Lexus CT 200h, Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Sonata Plug-In Hybrid, Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, Mazda CX-3 GT AWD and Chevrolet Colorado diesel pickup.

The first stop was the University of Toronto’s Institute of Technology in Oshawa — to feed ourselves and the electric vehicles and tour the impressive research facility. Our next leg, 67.8 kilometres, ended on the pier at Cobourg, where we again fed the power-hungry electrics before heading another 90.9 kms to Belleville on Day 1’s final leg.

The Toronto to Belleville trip took just over 12 hours. About half the time was used up feeding the electrics — not much of an argument for battery technology.

Day 2 began with an 84-km run to Kingston and a tour of the interesting but disturbing Kingston Penitentiary museum. (The oldest prison in the Canadian penitentiary system, decommissioned in 2013, opens to tours in a couple of weeks).

Next stop is lunch on the waterfront at Brockville, where drivers and electrics had a power lunch before the 113-km final leg to Ottawa and the finish line at City Hall.

It was on that 84.5- km Kingston-Brockville leg that the Nissan Leaf battery ran dangerously low, forcing its driver, Neil Moore, to hunt for a power source. He found it — at a bowling alley, where he got in some much needed lane time while the Leaf juiced up.

Timing being everything on a tour like this, we arrived in Ottawa during rush hour, a challenging time at best, doubly so when you’re trying to be both calm and economical. I watched helplessly while the average economy reading on the Colorado moved higher.

With closing ceremonies over, we climbed back into the vehicles for the 13-km trip to the hotel and closing banquet with featured presentation of the Green Jersey to the most economical driver, won by Jim Kenzie from TSN’s Motoring TV.

Some of us took the hunt for the jersey more seriously than others, but the group used less fuel than the official combined fuel economy posted on the Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) website for all 27 vehicles.

The overall average efficiency score was 133.2 per cent. The most efficient vehicle, excluding electrics, was Toyota’s Prius at 3.2 L/100 km. Least efficient was a tie between Porsche 911 and Mazda CX-9 at 7.8 L/100 km. However, both beat the NRCan rating by 2.3 L/100 km.

Here’s my scores (with NRCan figures in brackets): Toyota RAV4 Hybrid — 5.7 (7.2), Lexus CT 200h – 3.9 (5.7), Chevy Cruze — 4.9 (6.8), Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid — 5.1 (5.9), Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid — 3.9 (5.1), Mazda CX-3 GT AWD — 6.1 (8.1), Chevy Colorado diesel pickup — 7.6 (10.3).

If there’s one thing that really stood out, it was how few people actually drive the speed limit. Just for kicks, try doing the posted limit in front of an impatient transport driver sometime.

Harry Pegg is a member of AJAC.