Encouraging smart driving habits by supporting vehicle innovation

Power to the people

The ongoing quest to make driving more economical and environmentally friendly includes efforts to help drivers make the best possible vehicle and driving choices. The Canadian Fuels Association sponsors several community-focused initiatives that support Canadians in taking the initiative to drive better, cleaner and less expensively.

Tina Reilly is an Ottawa-based writer and President of Lightning Media Inc.

AJAC EcoRun 2016’s 27 drivers arrive at Marion Dewar Plaza in Ottawa for the event’s closing ceremonies.

EcoRun 2016

Better driving, more savings

In early June, 27 members of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) left Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto with a mission: test drive several new vehicles over two days and use as little fuel as possible while doing it.

The AJAC EcoRun is an annual event in which journalists review new eco-friendly vehicles. While it may sound like a routine gig for an automotive journalist, EcoRun comes with a special twist. The journalist who drives most efficiently wins the coveted “Green Jersey” award sponsored by the Canadian Fuels Association.

The value for consumers is in reading articles spawned by EcoRun, which give more than the aesthetic and performance dimensions typical of automobile reviews. The articles provide a glimpse of the real-world fuel-economy results that any driver can achieve.

“Green cars are not just a trend, but a big part of our future and EcoRun is one more way to help consumers understand their automotive choices,” says AJAC President David Miller, the event’s main organizer. Miller says the growing commercial acceptance of alternative powertrains, as well as increases in funding for new fuelling infrastructures (such as electric), illustrate the importance of giving Canadians comprehensive analyses of new vehicle technology and performance.

A wide selection of vehicles for review

Of the 27 sedans, hatchbacks, crossovers, SUVs and trucks on hand for EcoRun, all were eco-friendly in some way. Some—such as the new Porsche 911 Carrera—were highly efficient new versions of gasoline models. Others were pure electrics, conventional hybrids or diesel powered. One—the Toyota Mirai—was powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.

The 2016 EcoRun began in Toronto and drove through Oshawa, Cobourg, Belleville, Kingston and Brockville with Ottawa as the final destination. The journey’s six legs—some on highways, others on city or rural roads—tested the vehicles’ and drivers’ efficiency on different terrain. EcoRun used the on-board fuel economy data from each vehicle to calculate the drivers’ totals.

Harry Pegg, a veteran journalist with the Winnipeg Free Press, says he’s attended EcoRun four times. “I do it because the technology is interesting. You get great access to a lot of vehicles over a short period, which is unusual and interesting for people like us who are obsessed with vehicle performance.” Pegg said EcoRun drivers are looking primarily at the powertrains. “How economical are they? How economical can the driver make them?”

He said his favourite ride was the Mazda MA5, a sports car, but he points to the Toyota Mirai, a sedan powered exclusively by a hydrogen fuel, as the most interesting and potentially most promising technology. “Many of us (journalists) consider hydrogen fuel cells as the future of the automobile because it has such great range.”

While the event was a successful showcase for the important role that vehicle technology can play in achieving impressive fuel-economy numbers, EcoRun also underscored how much fuel economy depends on the driver. All drivers performed well against Natural Resources Canada’s standard for fuel economy, which was the benchmark EcoRun used in evaluating their performances, says Miller. On average, the drivers performed 32 percent better than the NRCan standard. “This event showed that driving fuel efficiently can make a large difference in how long your tank lasts.”

How the EcoRun cars measured up

The 2016 EcoRun featured 27 vehicles supplied by 15 automakers: Chevrolet, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Lexus, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Porsche, Smart, Subaru, Toyota and Volvo. Powertrains ran the gamut from electric to plug-in hybrid, regular hybrid, conventional gasoline and diesel systems, and a hydrogen fuel cell.

The most efficient vehicle, excluding electrics, was Toyota’s Prius at 3.2L per 100 km. The least efficient was a tie between Porsche 911 and the Mazda CX-9 at 7.8L per 100 km. Interestingly, both of the less efficient cars beat Natural Resources Canada’s standard by 2.3L per km when they were driven well.

And the Green Jersey goes to Jim Kenzie—again!

Jim Kenzie, who covered the 2016 EcoRun event on behalf of Motoring TV and the Toronto Star, was the most efficient driver over the two days. His score was more than 57 percent better than Natural Resources Canada’s posted standard for fuel efficiency.

“The NRCan standard is considered difficult to achieve,” says Kenzie. “But every single one of the EcoRun drivers achieved it easily, so that shows what we can do with a little careful driving.”

Canadian Fuels President Peter Boag (on right) presents the AJAC Green Jersey to Jim Kenzie, winner of the 2016 EcoRun.


Kenzie added that acceleration and aerodynamic drag are the major problems for fuel efficiency. “Drivers have a lot of control over acceleration so that’s the key for most of us trying to cut down on consumption. It’s all about conserving your momentum.”

Kenzie’s best result was with the Chevy Volt, which he drove mostly on the highway. He says he got roughly 35 km into the drive before the engine kicked in and averaged 2.8L per 100 km. Kenzie said his most surprising result was in the Porsche 911 Carrera, a twin turbo 370 horsepower sports car that he got down as low as 6.1L/100 km through efficient driving.

This was Kenzie’s second green jersey award in three years, making him the only driver to have won it twice. We asked him to share his secrets for success:

1. Accelerate gently
Don’t be in a rush to bring your car up to speed. Do it gently and you’ll burn less fuel. (NRCan recommends taking five seconds to accelerate up to 20 kilometres per hour from a stop.)

2. Coast instead of braking
Whenever you stomp on the brakes you waste a good deal of your forward momentum. Look well ahead and start coasting long before your brakes are needed.

3. Avoid high speeds
Vehicles operate most fuel efficiently at speeds between 50 and 80 kilometres per hour. Aerodynamic drag increases by the square of speed. So, the faster you travel above those speeds, the more fuel you consume per kilometre.

4. Look ahead into traffic
Anticipating when you might need to speed up or slow down will help you avoid doing either thing abruptly. Driving gingerly helps avoid waste.

5. Don’t use the air conditioning
If you can stand it, try to endure the heat. Kenzie said that in an experiment, he turned on the AC in one of the cars he drove. The consumption reading in the car jumped by about 1L per 100 km as a result.


Fuelling the smart way

Smart Fuelling is a new initiative that reminds Canadians to drive with care. A program of the Canadian Fuels Association, Canadian Independent Petroleum Marketers Association (CIPMA) and the Canadian Convenience Stores Association (CCSA), Smart Fuelling gives drivers constructive tips for limiting their use of fuel.

“We want to be part of a solution for reducing fuel emissions,” says Tricia Anderson, President of CIPMA. “We’re helping Canadians understand how to be more fuel efficient and save money at the same time.”

The Smart Fuelling partners have met with several municipalities in British Columbia and Ontario about introducing a package of driving tips and other promotional materials at service stations. The materials include decals, stickers to go in retailers’ windows and a list of driving tips for customers to take with them. North Vancouver has adopted Smart Fuelling messages for a new bylaw that requires fuel retailers to install pump labels encouraging the public to make positive choices that reduce their impact on the environment.

Alex Scholten, past President of CCSA, says Smart Fuelling has also met with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which has agreed to promote the materials at major meetings. Meanwhile, CCSA member retailers across Canada have received the materials as well as a background briefing on the importance of disseminating information about fuelling efficiently.


Fitbit for cars?

Smart Drive uses data to deliver greater efficiency

Technology and data are being used in innovative ways to help drivers lower their fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by driving better—and less. The Smart Drive Challenge, spearheaded by Scout Environmental and sponsored by the Canadian Fuels Association, ran a pilot project in 2016 that used technology and data to help people drive more efficiently.

Smart Drive recruited 550 drivers of all ages with the goal of motivating them to reduce their fuel consumption and emissions by 15 percent. The program launched in June in concert with the annual EcoRun challenge (see previous page), an event where journalists road-test new eco-friendly vehicles and also compete to see who is the most fuel efficient driver.

“We designed Smart Drive to challenge people to drive more efficiently and drive less,” says Ian Morton, CEO of Scout Environmental, which partnered with Natural Resources Canada, Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, the Government of British Columbia, the City of Vancouver, and others to design and implement the program. “Data are being used today to track calories, steps, clicks and likes—but not nearly enough is being done to track how much fuel we’re consuming as we drive our cars.”

Simple data collection and feedback

Smart Drive collects data by furnishing each participant with a telemetric device (developed in Waterloo, Ontario) that they can plug into their vehicle to track their driving behavior, fuel consumption and emissions. The device is the size of a thumb drive—the kind you might stick into the side of your computer.

When you sign up, Smart Drive gives you your own online portal and helps you record a baseline of your driving behavior, fuel consumption and emissions. Then, over three weeks, the telemetric device tracks how you drive and Smart Drive works with you to improve your driving habits.

For example, you get an email every day that analyses how you drove on the previous day. Did you do jackrabbit accelerations and brake hard? Both are wasteful habits that you want to avoid. Did you drive less than usual? More than usual? Could you have avoided taking your car on one of your errands?

Your Smart Drive portal tells you how you rank against others taking the challenge. And you get rewarded for participating—everyone gets a $50 pre-loaded VISA card, and possibly more if they exceed the goal of reducing their consumption and emissions by 15 percent.

“This is a really fun way to create a constituency of people around something positive,” says Morton. “Some people will be motivated by the environmental aspect of Smart Drive and others by the $50 reward. Still others will be motivated by the money they save as they consume less fuel.”

Creating change on the demand side

Morton emphasizes that Smart Drive is much more than an educational initiative in that the program tracks hard data related to people’s actions. There could be major implications for insurance companies and vehicle manufacturers who will now be able to see that drivers, properly motivated, can shift their behaviours in quantifiable ways.

“Fossil fuels will be part of our driving for the foreseeable future,” says Morton. “So we need to know what we can do to mitigate their use.” He said that as more fuel efficient and less polluting vehicles come online, an ability to track and measure whether the demand side is shifting is equally important.

“The utility sector has a good track record working with customers on the demand side to reduce their consumption. The fuel sector needs to do that as well. Canadian Fuels should be congratulated on their leadership getting behind a program like this.