The pros and cons of fuel economy runs
By Tessa R. Salazar Philippine Daily Inquirer BRING it on! Now that could have been a cute takeoff for a fun motoring article, except that at almost P50 per liter (and counting), the cost of fuel is no longer a laughing matter. And the next time legendary ol’ Tito Poch utters this now-famous sentence, it may be to face a rioting mob of motorists fed up with the rising cost of the rice-gasoline cocktail. Intoxicating thought, isn’t it? For those who haven’t gone to the extent of installing their cars with LPG tanks, or at the extreme dumping their old (or new) gas guzzlers for some two-wheeled fuel misers, they may be holding on to the hope that, perhaps, changing some wasteful driving habits may do the trick of squeezing out a few more kilometers out of that last precious drop of fuel. Some car manufacturers, understandably, are willing to help. Honda Cars Philippines Inc. (HCPI) recently held the motoring media edition of a fuel-efficiency driving competition on a combination of city and highway driving. This turns out to be a bold move on the part of HCPI, which cited a survey that most Honda owners still preferred performance over fuel economy. Here's Mario Marasigan, the director for the Department of Energy’s Energy Utilization Management Bureau, and HCPI president and GM Hiroshi Shimizu signaling the start of Honda Challenge Cup. HCPI vice president for marketing Arnel Doria revealed that the Japanese manufacturer had, indeed, lined up a series of fuel economy activities for the motoring public to be increasingly aware of the benefits of fuel-efficient driving. For this edition planned specially for the media (willing guinea pigs, at that), HCPI had prepared a route consisting of a 39.9-km city drive from Petron C5 passing through Ayala, Buendia, Edsa all the way to Petron North Luzon Expressway northbound, and a 65-km highway drive starting from Petron NLEX to Petron in Dau, Pampanga. Fourteen teams (each comprised of a driver and a navigator) were allotted the Honda vehicles City 1.3 CVT, City 1.5 CVT, Jazz 1.3 CVT, Jazz 1.5 CVT, Civic 1.8 A/T, Civic 2.0 A/T, and the CR-V 2.4 A/T. For each Honda variant, two teams went head-to-head, for a total of seven competing groups. Unlike past fuel economy runs, HCPI urged the participating teams to practice “normal” day-to-day driving, with the air-conditioning and thermostats on at comfortable settings, and city and highway speeds maintained at “legal” levels. That meant a minimum speed of anywhere from 0 to 30 kph during city driving, and 60 kph on the highway drives. HCPI made sure all participants would follow this speed guidelines by setting a time requirement of a maximum 2-hour completion of the city route and 1.5 hours for the highway route.According to HCPI technicians, all of the competing units had just been tuned up. One factor, however, was not made constant: the total mileages of competing cars were not identical. Thus, while one team was to drive a relatively brand-new car (of less than 25,000 km in the odometer, for example), the competing team had to make do with a 50,000-km-old car. Questions about cylinder friction and other matters related with age were brought up. HCPI explained, however, that today's cars have virtually “less friction,” especially at the parts where it mattered most -- the engine. As long as the cars were regularly tuned up, such age differences were negligible. HCPI went on to stress that vehicle age was just one factor of a myriad of factors playing on fuel efficiencies. Other major aspects to consider were the driver’s skills, driver-navigator teamwork and the car's total weight. HCPI chose the “rough tank” test. That meant fuel measurements would be determined entirely by the gas pumps, or more specifically by the automatic shutoff of the gas pumps (as fuel economy run is devoid of expensive fuel-measuring instruments). This was not exactly one of the most accurate ways to measure fuel runs but it does give a general idea of how much fuel was consumed.(Note: Based on past fuel economy runs conducted by the Department of Energy using rough tank test, the organizer either generally used the same location and pump as several pumps may produce discrepancies; cars were filled to the brim with indicator; and using ramps taking into consideration the fuel lines, etc. but these procedures have accuracy issues, too). The refueling was supervised by a technical committee composed of HCPI and Automobile Association Philippines representatives. Fuel economy readings would be derived by adding up the actual distance of city and highway driving divided by the total amount of fuel consumed (in liters). Seals were placed on the hood-body gap, fuel lid, trunk, air-con thermostats, fan control dial, recirculation control, and trunk after the initial and second fill-ups. The technical committee also checked the air-con pipelines (to make sure everyone used the car's aircon). The recommended tire pressures (usually seen on the driver’s side door) were followed (underinflated tires increase road resistance, while overinflated tires bring about unstable weight distribution due to insufficient tire-to-surface contact. Adding an interesting sidelight to the run was the participation of HCPI's own hybrid Civic. The DoE's Marasigan, who witnessed the entire run, lauded Honda’s fuel economy initiatives. The results of the fuel economy run were not without its surprises. The tandem of Manila Bulletin’s Aris Ilagan and Manila Standard Today’s Dino Directo, tagged heavy favorites for their nearly decade-old experience in fuel economy runs (and having won several of these runs to boot), were narrowly out-economized by first-time participants Maike Evers and Lory Uy. The two teams drove a Honda CR-V 2.4-L. Inquirer Motoring's Tessa Salazar, in tandem with Road Talk's Aries Espinosa, made the technical committee gasp in disbelief twice -- the first at the first fill-up at the Petron NLEX after the city drive, where the Jazz 1.3 A/T Espinosa drove consumed only 1.13 km in 39.5 km, for an amazing fuel-efficiency reading of 35 km per liter -- and the second at the second fill-up at Petron Dau after the highway drive, where the same vehicle driven by the same driver consumed an appalling 6.09 liters in 65.7 km, for a dismal fuel run of 10.7 km to a liter. The Inquirer team ended up with an average fuel consumption rating of 14.5 km to a liter, a far cry from competitor Manila Bulletin motoring editor Pinky Colmenares and assistant editor Anjo Perez’s result of 26 km to a liter for city and 39.5km to a liter for the highway). Here's a photo of the Honda Challenge Cup winners with Gabby Peren, assistant vice president for Logistics of Honda Cars Philippines Inc. (extreme left), Marasigan (third from left) and Doria (third from right). Nobody could explain such big differences in the results, and the losers, expectedly so, cried for a rematch. Hopefully soon, though, before fuel prices hit the roof, and everyone throws in the towel and wears their crash helmets. Bring it on!
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