• EcoMonth

Carte Blanche - AJAC's EcoRun becomes EcoMonth

Jim Kenzie By: Jim Kenzie September 23, 2020
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Since 2012, the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (heretofore, AJAC) has conducted an annual “EcoRun”, an event in which AJAC members drive vehicles in all categories (sedans, sports cars, SUVs and pickups) with all sorts of motive power options (gasoline, pure electric, hybrid, even some with Professor Diesel’s brilliant concept) along a pre-set route over a couple of days.

The objectives for this event are three-fold: first, to illustrate the fuel-saving technologies that are available in today’s vehicle market; second, to show that yes, you can so achieve the NRCan fuel consumption ratings if you drive gently enough. Every year, at least one competitor has achieved this for every vehicle in the event; and third, the journalist who achieves the best overall efficiency record is awarded the “Green Jersey”, a blatant rip-off of bicycle racing’s famed “Yellow Jersey”.

I have some of those already hanging in my closet…

For its first eight years, EcoRun has involved each journalist jumping into a vehicle, driving a stage (typically, an hour and a half long), recording the energy consumption and then swapping into another vehicle. A journalist may do five or six vehicles a day like this.

Busy, but fun. And, often illuminating in unexpected ways.

As in, among the most impressive vehicles I have driven over the years were two which you would not expect to even enter, let alone do well, in an environmental contest – a Porsche 911, and an AMG Mercedes-Benz S-Class with a twin-turbo V8 engine. The fact that I eked out better than 7 litres per 100 km in both of these very fast cars – we’re talking 0 – 100 km/h in the five second range, top end around 250 – is to me a most impressive feat.

Sure, I drove them very gently. But still…

Obviously, in these COVID times, the traditional EcoRun plan is a non-starter. We’d need four hours to sanitize each car after each stage. So AJAC has adapted and has come up with EcoMonth. Car makes deciding to participate in the EcoRun pay an entry fee then enter vehicles that they think will score well.

Journalists choose one vehicle for each week to drive.

Or so I thought. More on this later.

Journalists are instructed to take photos of our Hot Rod du Jour at specific locations chosen by Jud Buchanan’s Vehicle Dynamics Group that organizes the event. This is to prove that we actually got there. It’s sort of a green scavenger hunt.

Because most of our members live near Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal and we couldn’t all get together in one location, they set up separate competitions for each region.

In Week One for us Toronto-based entrants, I borrowed a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) from Wheels’ own Norris McDonald because – well, advanced planning isn’t my strong suit, and I hadn’t got around to reading the instructions…

My first task was to take a photo of the car in front of Andrews’ Scenic Acres, and apple farm-cum-winery about eight klicks from my house.

Click. One photo down.

The second location was at the first stop on Petro-Canada’s “electric highway”, which just happens to be in my home town of Milton, and is my favoured local gas station. They have about fifteen fuel pumps, and two electric recharging stations. As usual, the fuel pumps were very busy when I got there; there was nobody but me at the recharging stations…

I thought I might see other Eco Month competitors there with other electrics.

Nope.

Click.

Bonus points were on offer if we found the nearby park named after Milton’s most famous son, Astronaut Chris Hadfield.

Click. Done.

For Week Two, it looked like somebody decided that the most eco-friendly way to drive was – don’t.

Meeting this week’s challenges involved walking: first, up about 15,000 steps to the top of the beautiful scenic lookout at the  “Brickworks” theme park on Bayview to get a panorama shot of the city (never thought a concrete block would make such a fine resting place); second, about fifteen kms through the previously-mentioned Andrews apple farm to find their “corn maze” which I’d missed on my first go-round; third, another two-hour wander through the gorgeous town of Elora searching for a couple of sculptures, one man-made and the other natural.

Click. Click. Click. Click.

Then I saw the interim results.

Turns out we weren’t limited to one car a week. Dan Heyman of Vancouver obviously has a lot of time on his hands because he must have driven about fifteen cars during that first week.

I can’t even see the leader board from where I sit.

So it looks like there won’t be any new Green Jerseys in my closet any time soon.

But as a life-long Maple Leafs fan, I’m used to saying, “Wait ’til next year!!”

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