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From left: the Scion tC, xB and xD.

Paul Giamou/Toyota

A Toronto-area Toyota dealer is the first in Canada to offer a high-tech evaluation of customers' real-world fuel consumption, while providing a more accurate estimate of how much money they'd save – or spend – on fuel with a new Toyota or Scion purchase.

Don Valley North Toyota Scion uses the MyCarma system, which uses a data logger loaned for free by the dealer to the customer that uses a Lego-like connector to plug into the OBD II sensor of any car or truck, and then tracks the vehicle's typical usage over a week. Highway cruising versus stop-and-go city driving, aggressive throttle jabs versus gentle takeoffs, and other commuting patterns are all combined with your annual mileage to provide the driver and sales consultant back at the dealership a realistic view of one's driving patterns, including how much the driver will spend on fuel each year.

From there, dealership staff can compare what those same commuting and driver patterns would cost in a variety of new vehicles, said Eric Mallia, business manager at CrossChasm Technologies, a Waterloo, Ontario-based auto consulting software company that developed the MyCarma system.

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"How you drive, how much time you spend on the highway, and how far above the speed limit makes a huge difference in your real-world fuel economy," said Mallia. "In our studies on passenger vehicles, the spread of real-world fuel consumption relative to the vehicle label has ranged from six per cent to 68 per cent, based on the vehicle's usage patterns."

This wide range between stated and real-world fuel economy is especially true for current Canadian two-cycle fuel economy figures, the optimistic fuel economy figures also used on vehicle labels, which measure fuel consumption in laboratory settings without air conditioner/climate control use, and never stray above 97 km/h in its simulated speeds.

Even the federal government's official fuel consumption guide states these figures are more useful for comparisons between vehicles in the guide than in predicting real-world fuel consumption costs.

This is where software such as MyCarma can become very useful, even if you're not in the market for a new vehicle right away, because it gives you an Eco score which is particular to your driving behaviour, and tells you how close or far you are to extracting maximum fuel economy from your car. Or whether you may be able to afford a larger vehicle that's pricier up front, but will save you money in fuel down the road.

"Not everyone knows that the government numbers are unrealistic," said Mallia, who said the MyCarma numbers provide a data-based indication of the real-world cost difference in fueling your own car compared to, say, a Toyota RAV4 versus a Matrix versus a Prius. "That's the beauty of using these numbers, because it's based on your drive cycles, and not the ones used by Transport Canada or EPA."

Tesla plans store in Yorkdale

Tesla Motors' first permanent Canadian store will open this fall, as part of an expansion of Toronto's tony Yorkdale retail shopping mall, which will also include six plug-in vehicle spots and at least two chargers.

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The expansion is set to open in mid-November, while Tesla will install two Tesla-specific chargers in two spots dedicated for current Tesla owners. Model S test drives will be arranged through the store inside, with a test drive car parked at one of the Tesla spots.

Unfortunately for other plug-in drivers, these Tesla high-powered connectors won't work with less expensive plug-in cars such as the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf or Mitsubishi i-MiEV, or pricier ones like the Fisker Karma, since these chargers are unique and don't conform to the otherwise industry standard J1772 connector.

Toronto will also be the only Canadian stop for the Model S Get Amped tour that just kicked off, an event planned for August 5-8 for current Model S reservation holders and potential buyers to test drive the car.

BMW, Toyota to collaborate on sports cars and green techs

BMW and Toyota have agreed on a wide-ranging collaboration on green vehicle technologies and a sports car program.

The German and Japanese powerhouses have agreed to work together on hydrogen fuel cells, powertrain electrification, a future sports car architecture and advanced lightweight materials. BMW had previously agreed to supply Toyota with small 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre diesel engines in Europe, starting in 2014.

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The wide-ranging announcement ties the two companies together with a memorandum of understanding that should save huge amounts of research dollars for each company. The deal doesn't go as far as investing in stock in each other's companies, as featured in the now cranky and seemingly ill-fated Suzuki and Volkswagen Group tie-up, which has led to very public acrimony between that German-Japanese partnership.

Details on vehicle specifics are so far scarce, but BMW has recently cut its previous ties to work with GM on fuel cells.

Car2go to offer Smart EVs in Vancouver

In the midst of a rapid Canadian expansion this month, Daimler's innovative Car2go car-sharing service will offer its first electric Smarts in Vancouver in the next few weeks, Car2Go Canada president Nicholas Cole said recently.

Cole was speaking in Toronto last weekend to help launch the unique service in the city, two years after the company launched in Canada with a fleet of gasoline Smart fortwo models in Vancouver in 2010. The service will also launch on July 21 in Calgary later this month.

"It's going to be the current models that we're going to receive," said Cole. Those are much less powerful and don't travel quite as far as the 55 kW version that's planned to launch in the spring of 2013 in North America. "Then when the new model comes out next year, we'll likely get some of those."

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The Car2go car-sharing service is unique for a couple reasons: one, it's a floating service, meaning you don't have to bring the car back to one specific spot, but any designated parking lot, usually in a downtown area. And two, it only offers two-seat Smart cars, so if you'd like to carry more than one passenger, well, you're out of luck.

That floating capability presents some challenges for electric cars, Cole acknowledges, especially since the company itself doesn't install electric vehicle charging stations.

"Right now, we really have to keep our eye on the infrastructure," said Cole, about the possibility of bringing the Smart EVs to other Canadian cities. "Access to on street parking and public chargers would be a necessity for us to bring in EV models."

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