Odyssey International: Masthead
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We did it!

September 9th, 2013


After 4,500 kilometres, we figure the last 1,500 will be a cakewalk. Traffic will be light on the flat four-lane Highway 417 from Ottawa to Montreal. Although truck traffic will pick up on Quebec’s Highway 20 East from Montreal to Quebec City and on to Rivière-du-Loup, one thing is almost guaranteed - a nice tail wind.

Prevailing winds were one of the considerations when developing the plan for the motoring extravaganza that had been unfolding over the past week. When we passed a service centre just before the Quebec border and noticed three flags pointing up the grill of our 2014 Chevy Cruze turbo diesel, it caught my breath.

“Th- th- th- there’s a head wind, Lisa!” I stammered.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize a headwind is no friend of fuel economy and by the time we cleared Montreal the anomalous winds from the east had picked up even more, right on our nose. DANG!

Wife, Lisa Calvi, and I had left British Columbia a week earlier, on August 22, with the intention to set a fuel efficiency record for driving between Vancouver and Halifax. Besides prevailing winds, we liked the idea of heading home to Halifax in case our marriage started to disintegrate after eight days in Road Prison nerding out about fuel consumption numbers, elevation, road grades and traffic flow.

The parameters of the mission were simple.

Cover the distance between Stanley Park in Vancouver and Halifax’s Point Pleasant Park using the least amount of fuel while maintaining an average speed of at least 80 km/h. Including down time for eating, sleeping, Canadiana appreciation, fueling and sanity breaks, the drive had to be completed in eight days (192 hours) or less.

To set the best possible record a few things were obvious.

First, we had to drive the shortest distance between start and finish points. That meant no meandering into towns and cities. Forget about that perfect photo opportunity a few kilometres off the Trans Canada Highway, the backbone of our route. Extra kilometres translates into extra fuel.

Second, we had to drive a very fuel-efficient vehicle and it had to be a stock, production vehicle currently on sale in Canada. Our choice was a 2014 Chevrolet Cruze powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged clean diesel engine, that, according to Chevrolet, is the stingiest non-hybrid passenger sedan available with a Transport Canada highway fuel consumption rating of 4.2 L/100 km.

The six days to Ottawa had been like an ‘unrace’. Although our intention was to drive at the speed limit through the long Northern Ontario sector, in general truck traffic moved faster than the posted 90 km/h on the two-lane Trans Canada Highway. Rather than hold anyone up, we went with the flow and let them overtake in the passing zones every 10 or 20 kilometres.

An average of 80 km/h might seem slow but factors like getting out of congested Vancouver, the mountains of British Columbia, construction and slow-speed zones and stopping for basic human needs all chip away at the average speed.

Things picked up on the drive across the Prairies where one day we averaged an impressive 3.8 L/100 km. On the long haul from the Manitoba-Ontario border to Thunder Bay, over the top of Lake Superior and on to Ottawa, the speed limit, except for a few very short sections, is 90 km/h.

The pesky headwinds keep up through Quebec, New Brunswick and into Nova Scotia until we turn south at Truro for the last 100 kilometres to Halifax. When we pull into the parking lot at Point Pleasant Park, we had done the drive on four and a third tanks of fuel.

The instrumentation showed we had completed the 5,956-kilometre drive in 189 hours and 21 minutes, just under 8 days.

We used two methods to measure the fuel consumed: the onboard ‘fuel used’ readout on the Cruze’s instrument panel along with the fuel pumped into the Cruze during the fill-ups when we ‘super-filled’ the tank until I could see clear fuel ten centimetres from the top of the filler neck.

The readout on the instrument panel was 253.8 litres and the total from the fuel receipts was 248.6 litres. With margins of error related to the instrumentation and the five fuel pumps we used across the country, our official claim is the average of the two at 250.9 litres.

This translates to a fuel consumption of 4.21 litres per 100 kilometres at an average speed of 80.3 kilometres per hour.

We had fun cursing headwinds, praising tailwinds, sticking within 100 metres of the highway most of the time, watching sunrises through the windshield and meeting some great Canadians along the way.

We just might have inspired others to save a little fuel by driving in a more fuel efficient manner, and maybe to even take a drive across this great country of ours.

Follow Garry on Twitter: @DrivenMind99
Follow Lisa on Twitter: @FrontLady

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