Go green or go home: 2014 AJAC Eco-Run
The annual Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) Eco-Run took place this year in Vancouver on May 6, a three-day event that showcases the latest and greatest eco-friendly vehicles available. It also aims to educate the public on how to drive in a manner that can save money at the gas station, and help the environment at the same time.
"We have everything from small sub-compacts right up to a pickup truck and a hybrid sports car. So there’s a very diverse grouping here, all of them offering consumers the best technologies available in terms of fuel efficiency and emission controls,” said AJAC Eco-Run chairman Clare Dear at the launch in downtown’s Jack Poole Plaza.
Eighteen journalists and 18 vehicles from 12 different manufacturers gathered near Coal Harbour before taking off on a route to Whistler, then to Pemberton, and back with stops along the way to refuel and recharge. There were gasoline and diesel-powered cars, like the Nissan Altima and MINI Cooper, pure electrics such as the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Nissan Leaf, and hybrids like the Honda Accord Hybrid and even the sporty Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid.
The drivers essentially drew straws to determine which cars they would be piloting on the different sections of the trip — my first ride was the Mazda3 equipped with a manual transmission. Sadly, practicing green driving meant I spent most of the time in a high gear trying to maintain a steady rate of speed without any sudden stops. Other techniques I employed to reduce fuel consumption included avoiding jack rabbit starts and anticipating traffic so I could coast to slow down when safe. Easier said than done.
It was smoother sailing once the caravan hit the wide-open Sea-to-Sky highway with its gorgeous views of the surrounding Coast Mountains. Surprisingly, there were plenty of charging stations along the way, with even a DC fast charger in downtown Squamish that was able to fill-up the limited-range electrics in about 30 minutes.
To gauge the effectiveness of our purposeful driving style, each participating vehicle had a data-logging device installed measuring acceleration, braking, average speed and energy consumption. The goal was, as a group, to use as little gas and electricity as possible. Over the course of the tour, the drivers managed a commendable average eco-score of 91.8 out of 100, with 100 representing optimal efficiency. Some journalists, myself not included, even managed to achieve perfect scores on certain parts of the journey.
The Eco-Run ended back where it started with a consumer show where passersby brave enough to venture into a sudden rainstorm could learn more about the event, check out some of the cars and even take one out for a test drive.