Drive

AJAC Eco-Run proves saving fuel starts with the driver

Fuel economy is an important issue these days, especially whenever gas prices spike. You might be tempted to trade in your older vehicle for one that gets better mileage, but even that won’t make a huge difference unless you also change your driving habits.

That was the idea behind the Eco-Run, presented by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) last week. Over three days, auto writers drove 22 cars with fuel-saving technology from Brighton to London, Ont., to compare how they did against the published fuel figures for each.

The cars including all-electrics, hybrids and extended-range vehicles; one with a diesel engine; and gasoline-powered cars that incorporate such things as optimized engines, lightweight construction, improved aerodynamics and start-stop technology that shuts off the engine when you’re stopped at a light. The models ranged from a two-seater Smart, to a Mercedes-Benz AMG and even a Porsche.

On our first leg of the journey, we tried to keep our feet light on the throttles. A representative from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) reported that of the 14 vehicles whose numbers could immediately be crunched, 70 per cent came in meeting or beating their official fuel figures.

We then got a pep talk that included five driving tips from NRCan’s Auto$mart program: accelerate gently, maintain a steady speed, anticipate traffic, coast to decelerate, and avoid high speeds. On the second leg, we were up to 80 per cent — and that included my achieving a mere 6.8 L/100 km in the Porsche Panamera Hybrid, mostly by sticking to the highway speed limit. By the end of the event, we were up to 100 per cent.

The event also outlined the importance of choosing a vehicle best suited to the majority of your driving. Electric cars are viable transportation — they’re certainly not just oversized golf carts — but they’re primarily for commuters who travel a daily distance that’s within their range. On long stretches of rural roads, the diesel and gasoline cars excelled. The hybrids did best in suburban and city driving, when they were able to self-charge their batteries via regenerative braking and so stay in electric mode for longer periods.

But even with these new technologies, it still came down to how we drove them. That’s the best part: no matter what you drive, if you adjust your habits, you can get better mileage in any vehicle — for free!

For more information

To find vehicle fuel figures and tips for economical driving, visit vehicles.nrcan.gc.ca

To find out more on the Eco-Run, visit ajac.ca

To download a free Driving Costs brochure, visit caa.ca

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