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News2023 AJAC EcoRun: Going The Extra Mile

2023 AJAC EcoRun: Going The Extra Mile

Fuel economy is an important purchase factor for a growing number of car buyers, and so is driving range for those who are considering an electric vehicle while taking advantage of applicable federal and provincial green vehicle rebates. The annual AJAC EcoRun serves to showcase fuel-sipping or energy-saving technologies and vehicles, but is also a friendly competition amongst Canadian automotive journalists to determine who’s the best eco-driver of the bunch.

This year, the EcoRun was held from Vancouver to Kelowna in British Columbia, passing through Penticton and looping up through Kamloops, spanning two full days of driving. A total of 18 vehicles and as many journalists participated in the event, including yours truly, and each journalist had the opportunity to get behind the wheel of 10 vehicles. The list of cars, crossovers and SUVs included:

So, a mix of hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery electrics and even a fuel cell vehicle. Each journalist got to drive ten of those, and after each leg, would move from one vehicle to another. Our eco-driving performance was recorded after each leg, and the numbers were crunched to determine a ranking for each driver on each leg. At the end of the event, a winner was declared and handed a green jersey. It wasn’t me, but my esteemed colleague journalist Evan Williams who also won the event last year.

Along the way, we had the opportunity to chat with AJAC EcoRun sponsors, and in some cases, visit their premises. Sponsors this year included BC Hydro, Canadian Fuels Association, Electric Mobility Canada, Exigent Endeavours, FLO, Kal Tire and Parkland.

I started the first day on the road behind the wheel of the 2023 Toyota Mirai, a midsize hydrogen fuel cell powered sedan. With 182 horsepower on tap and a driving range of up to 647 kilometres, the Mirai runs an electric motor fed by the fuel cell system that converts hydrogen into electricity on the fly, and can be fully refuelled in about five minutes. If we find a hydrogen station, because they’re virtually non-existent outside of British Columbia and California. The infrastructure is nowhere near where it should be for FCEVs to gain momentum, but it’s a work in progress.

I then drove the Kia Niro PHEV, a subcompact crossover with one of three available electrified powertrains for the nameplate, the others being HEV and full EV. That was followed by the all-new Mercedes-Benz EQE sedan, the brand’s new fully electric midsize offering that’s available in three trim levels—including the EQE 500 I drove. The Honda CR-V Hybrid, new for the 2023 model year, was also on my assigned list of vehicles to drive during EcoRun’s first day, in addition to the Jeep Wrangler 4xe and the Range Rover P400e.

During the first day on the road, a press conference was held to announce AJAC’s Green Car of the Year and Green Utility Vehicle of the Year award winners, the Hyundai IONIQ 6 and Hyundai IONIQ 5, respectively.

On EcoRun day number two, I started out behind the wheel of the 2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid, which received a mild power increase this year, followed by the all-new Lexus RZ 450e, the brand’s first fully electric vehicle in North America. After lunch, I ended up in the new Genesis GV70 Electrified compact crossover as well as the Lexus RX 500h F SPORT, the performance-focused hybrid for the midsize crossover line.

How well these all these vehicles perform compared to their official fuel economy and energy consumption ratings? Well, it depends, as some of the legs during the event consisted mainly of inclines as we drove from Vancouver to Kelowna, and some were pretty much a downhill ride to the next checkpoint. Overall, they performed well in the situations they faced and in the hands of the most eco-conscious drivers.

Here are some easy to follow tips for eco-driving. The faster we drive above, say, 50 mph or 80 km/h, the more energy our vehicle consumes, while the 40 to 50 mph or 60 to 80 km/h range is the sweet spot for maximum efficiency, especially for gas- or diesel-powered vehicles. Avoiding full-throttle acceleration also helps, obviously.

What consumes the most energy is getting our vehicle up to speed from a standstill, while keeping it moving along at a steady speed within the sweet spot mentioned above requires very little energy. Around town, if we can anticipate what’s coming up ahead, such as traffic lights that are currently red, but will turn green in a short period of time, we can lift the throttle and coast or slow down for a while instead of braking and coming to a full stop. That technique requires constant anticipation and planning on boulevards with lots of traffic lights, but it will save energy. Of course, we must also adapt to the surrounding traffic filled with drivers that aren’t trying to eco-drive like we are.

End of the day, the results during this year’s AJAC EcoRun go to show that with a lighter foot on the accelerator and better anticipation of the road ahead, we can save fuel and kilowatts.

On the same subject:
2023 Genesis Electrified GV70 at the AJAC EcoRun
2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid at the AJAC EcoRun
2023 Jeep Wrangler 4xe at the AJAC EcoRun
2023 Kia Niro PHEV at the AJAC EcoRun
2023 Lexus RX 500h F SPORT at the AJAC EcoRun
2023 Lexus RZ 450e at the AJAC EcoRun
2023 Mercedes-Benz EQE Sedan at the AJAC EcoRun
2023 Range Rover PHEV at the AJAC EcoRun
2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid at the AJAC EcoRun
2023 Toyota Mirai at the AJAC EcoRun

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