Four Observations

Eco-Run features an impressive gamut of green technologies in one place and AJAC’s continually evolving teams of organizers have worked magic over the years to make it run so well. Here are a few observations and suggestions.

One: The Green Jersey competition is a mistake.

Organizers warned drivers both mornings not to hyper-mile and avoid traveling significantly under the speed of traffic. But when you offer auto-journalists a chance for a free t-shirt, all bets are off. Several drivers continually cruised well below the speed limit throughout the two days. Such behaviour is cheekily competitive on quiet rural roads. But on that deathtrap known as Highway 401, it’s foolish and dangerous. Furthermore, the practice of driving 90 kph when the speed of traffic is 120 does not reflect Eco-Run’s raison d’etre: “accurate road testing fuel economy numbers.” If you’re looking for realistic facts about an ecological car, these drivers did you a disservice.

Next year, Eco-Run’s organizers should consider installing a few monitors in cars ad hoc – like Olympics doping tests – and disqualify dangerous hyper-milers from the competition. Better still and much simpler, just cancel the jersey competition outright and give everyone a green t-shirt like the kindergartners their behaviour mimicked. Those drivers who still choose to participate with no competition are the ones readers of articles like this would want anyway. We didn’t have a Green Jersey competition in the inaugural Eco-Run and it was a huge success.

Two: Things are changing unexpectedly fast.

Bill Gates supposedly said, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten.” When we conducted the first Eco-Run in 2012, many of the cars were novelties. Ubiquitous technologies we now use daily were barely heard of. Consider – today, buyers expect pretty much any new car to offer: multiple drive modes, including eco; start-stop technology; intelligent cruise control; and relatively good competitive fuel economy. 2016 is feeling very Tipping Pointy. The future is almost here – almost.

Three: Most EVs don’t purport to be anything more than a city tootler.

So taking them on jaunts into the country creates not only the recharging problem, but a false scenario. (NB: Tesla seems to have solved the distance issue with its new Model X, explained here, and coming Model 3. But from the start, Tesla has opted not to join Eco-Run. See below.) In that first year, I was the driver who drained an EV’s battery on a windblown hill. The organizers have tried to contain range-anxiety but you can only anticipate so much. This year an EV ran out of juice and the driver/writer was forced to go bowling in Kingston next door to the town’s charging station.

(Bowling. Kingston. I dare you to find a more compatible pair of words.)

Perhaps there should be a sub-Eco-Run event strictly for EVs or all city vehicles. It’s not such a silly idea if you consider that the majority of humanity now lives in cities – and, but for the odd Tesla – EVs exist for city drivers.

 Four: We need to include the disruptors.

The newest players in the auto world did not participate in Eco-Run. But Google, Tesla and Apple are busy changing the rules – many of which of ecologically based. It would be lovely if they joined the party, shared, and let us spread their news too.

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