What we learned about energy efficiency after driving some of Canada’s greenest vehicles

A Volvo C40 Recharge charging outside a hotel during the 2022 Eco Run.The Globe and Mail

Over two days recently, 15 vehicles traveled almost 800 kilometers through Ontario, and all 15 together consumed about the same amount of gasoline as would three regular full-size pickups over the same distance.

The occasion was the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s Eco Run, an annual event that since 2012 has evaluated Canada’s most fuel-efficient vehicles.

The 2022 drive was the first since 2019 because of the pandemic and it was also the first time all the vehicles were electrified – three regular hybrids, four plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and eight full battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) . No diesels, no petrol-sipping econoboxes.

Worthwhile as the Eco Run is, it has its limitations. The Detroit automakers were conspicuously absent this year, and the only Europeans were a pair of Volvos. That left two Asian auto maker groups dominating the proceedings: Toyota/Lexus, and Hyundai/Kia/Genesis.

All results are based on trip-computer readouts, which, like speedometers, are not all perfectly accurate. As well, not every journalist drove every vehicle, so there could be some skew based on individual driving styles.

Although the event comprised seven legs, I’m considering the first six separately from the last. That’s because Leg 7 was almost all freeway (including stretches with Ontario’s new 110-kilometre-an-hour speed limit); it also came at the end of a long day, when most of us just wanted to get to the hotel, feather-footing be damned.

Thirteen of the vehicles recorded their worst fuel/energy consumption on Leg 7. Compared with the average for the first six legs, their consumption was anywhere from 15 to 65 per cent worse.

One last qualifier: Because of limited charging facilities, the plug-in hybrid vehicles were not recharged en route, nor did they start the run fully charged. The Hyundai Tucson PHEV I drove on the first leg, for example, was half charged. The initial state of charge of the other PHEVs is unknown.

All that said, what can we learn from the results as they stand? For one thing, all the conventional hybrids and PHEVs improved on their official highway consumption figures provided by the manufacturers during Legs 1 to 6, which were almost entirely a rural ramble, with maximum speed limits of 90 kilometers an hour. But, with the exception of the Volvo XC90, all were thirstier than their official rating on Leg 7.

The BEVs, on the other hand, beat their official ratings throughout – by a whopping 33 per cent on average, in the case of the first six legs.

Fuel/energy consumption for Eco Run vehicles

How the 15 vehicles compare over the seven legs of the trip

LEG 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 AVG 1-6
Distance 123 117 87 113 73 127.0 133
Toyota RAV4 PRIME PHEV 4.9 4.4 4.6 5.2 5.7 5.3 6.9 5.0
Lexus NX450h PHEV 4.9 4.8 5.2 5.5 5.9 5.5 8.8 5.3
Kia Sportage HEV 5.2 4.7 5.0 5.6 5.9 5.6 7.4 5.3
Toyota Sienna AWD HEV 5.2 x x 5.6 5.3 x x 5.4
Lexus NX350h HEV 5.3 5.1 5.6 5.9 6.4 6.3 6.9 5.8
Hyundai Tucson PHEV 5.0 4.9 5.9 5.7 7.5 x 7.0 5.8
Volvo XC90 ER PHEV 6.1 6.4 7.4 7.2 7.6 7.3 8.0 7.0
Genesis G80 #1 14.1 14.3 15.6 14.5 16.6 15.5 20.0 15.1
Hyundai Ioniq5 #1 13.9 12.9 14.7 15.5 16.9 16.9 20.1 15.1
Kia EV6 13.9 13.1 15.3 16.4 17.6 15.5 17.3 15.3
Genesis G80 #2 13.7 16.0 14.1 15.0 17.4 15.9 x 15.4
Hyundai Ioniq5 #2 13.2 13.0 16.7 15.8 17.1 17.3 21.5 15.5
Genesis GV60 #2 16.4 14.1 17.0 19.4 19.0 18.3 24.5 17.4
Genesis GV60 #1* 17.9 18.0 19.9 x x x x 18.6
Volvo C40 15.4 19.2 17.4 18.8 20.6 20.4 21.8 18.6

Eco Run/Jeremy Sinek

Here are a few other outcomes worth noting:

I didn’t drive the Toyota Sienna, but its results got my attention. The Toyota minivan comes standard as a hybrid, and the all-wheel-drive model on the Eco Run averaged 5.4 liters per 100 kilometres. Its Natural Resources Canada highway rating is 6.6.

Toyota also dominated the plug-in hybrids’ results. The RAV4 Prime achieved the lowest fuel consumption over all (five litres per 100 kilometres), while its mechanically similar but heavier Lexus NX450h cousin tied for second place with the Kia Sportage Hybrid (5.3).

The Lexus NX450h cousin tied for second place in fuel consumption.The Globe and Mail

It was instructive to compare the Kia Sportage Hybrid and the Hyundai Tucson Plug-in Hybrid because, model for model, these corporate siblings are basically the same under the skin. As you’d expect, the PHEV Tucson recorded slightly better gas consumption (5 litres per 100 kilometers) than the hybrid Sportage over the first leg (5.2), courtesy of the initial 25 kilometers of electric driving afforded by its 50-per-cent initial state of charge. Over the remaining six legs, however, the hybrid was considerably more miserly than the plug-in (5.7 versus 6.2). That fits with the government figures and seems to confirm that once a PHEV has used up its initial charge, its greater weight (battery pack and motor) hurt its fuel efficiency.

Another surprise was the energy efficiency of the new Genesis G80 Electric. This luxury mid-size sedan handily beat the compact crossovers that made up the rest of the BEV contingent. I suspect that speaks to the benefits of a sedan’s lower aerodynamic drag, on a route that was almost entirely highway driving.

On the subject of compact crossovers, a less commendable surprise was the “thirst” of the Volvo C40. Although one of the smallest cars in the convoy, it consistently posted the highest energy consumption figures – 18.6 kilowatt-hours per 100 kilometres over Legs 1 to 6 versus the group’s average of 16.4. Then again, the C40 in my book was also the most fun to drive.

That said, the C40′s 21.8 kilowatt-hours per 100 kilometers on the final leg of the journey wasn’t the worst BEV performance – one of the GV60s took that honor (24.5), speeding to the hotel with this writer at the wheel .

The best energy consumption of all the BEVs was a tie (15.1 kilowatt hours per 100 kilometres) between a G80 and one of the two Hyundai Ioniq 5s, with the Kia EV6 close behind at 15.3. The other G80 and Ioniq 5 came in at 15.4 and 15.5, respectively.

The Kia EV6 achieves an energy consumption of 15.3 kilowatt-hours per 100 kilometres.The Globe and Mail

The Genesis GV60s were thirstier than their Hyundai/Kia corporate siblings, recording 17.4 and 18.6 kilowatt hours, respectively (though the latter’s result was based on only the first three legs; it was forced to drop out after on the first overnight stop). The GV60s, for the record, were the more powerful performance models; the Advanced trim claims somewhat better energy efficiency.

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