Economic mode, or eco mode in car as it is widely known, is a feature that has been incorporated into most modern cars in order to use fuel more efficiently.
Eco Mode in cars can be activated by pressing a button found on the dashboard, left of the steering wheel, or center panel of some vehicles. Once you press this button, your vehicle’s function is slightly altered so that you can cover a longer distance using a smaller quantity of fuel than you normally would.
At the same time, this mode reduces the optimal performance of the car and is sometimes activated to regulate aggressive driving. For example, it can affect the rate of acceleration, the amount of conditioned air in circulation in your car, and so on.
History of Eco Mode
The demand for improved fuel optimization led to the creation of eco mode in modern cars. However, the first introduction of Eco Mode came with the 2006 Toyota Prius, which only worked when the car was moving under 34 mph. Even then, it still did not conserve a significant amount of fuel. Over the years, Toyota and other car manufacturing industries have made the eco mode more effective.
In 2008, the Nissan Leaf Hybrid introduced a more efficient eco mode that could save up to 10% of fuel consumption. Honda introduced its version of the eco mode a year after, while Ford and Chevy added this feature in 2012.
Although the effectiveness of the eco mode depends on Car Manufacturers, there is no doubt that there are brands that simply offer this mode as a marketing strategy. Hence, you should be well-informed if the eco mode is an essential criterion to tick before purchasing a car.
How Does Eco Mode Work?
As we mentioned earlier, the operations eco mode undergoes for fuel optimization depends on the car manufacturer and is usually kept from the public. However, the fundamentals of how each system works are common knowledge and are relatively the basics across multiple brands. They include:
Limiting Engine Performance
The most common way eco mode reduces the fuel consumption of your car is by limiting your engine’s performance. This involves reprogramming your automatic transmission to be less aggressive. This temporarily prevents the engine from increasing its RPMs, which leads to a reduction in fuel consumption.
RPM is an abbreviation for the term Revolution Per Minute. It measures the number of complete rotations the crankshaft makes per minute.
Limiting Fuel Flow
Another way eco mode optimizes fuel consumption is by limiting fuel flow. This is done by reducing throttle responses which on the flip side leads to milder acceleration.
Another feature most brands have when eco mode is implemented is the start-stop feature. In simple words, eco mode automatically turns off the engine when not in use (like in heavy traffic situations) and as soon as the clutch pedal is pressed along with the gas pedal, it is turned back on.
Pros of Eco Mode
The main advantage of eco mode is that it reduces fuel consumption and by extension, the cost of your car’s maintenance.
Cons of Eco Mode
While eco mode reduces the fuel your car consumes, it has its downsides. They are:
- Restriction on your car’s engine power.
- Reduced torque to wheels. Torque is the measure of rotational power. If your car has more torque, it will provide more power to your wheels as they rotate, and when it has a reduced torque, it means less flexibility to your wheels.
FAQs About Eco Mode
When people are made aware of the eco mode feature, some of the questions that usually follow include:
Is Eco Mode Worth it?
If you are looking to cut back on fuel costs, the answer is almost always yes. Although, the eco mode of some car manufacturers is questionable.
On average, modern vehicles save between 5% and 10% when driving in eco mode. In practical terms, if you drive your car for 1,000 miles monthly and your car uses 30 miles per gallon without eco mode, you will end up using 400 gallons in a year. If one gallon costs $2.50, you will have saved $1,000 in a year by simply pressing a button!
How Popular is Eco Mode?
While the eco mode is relatively new, it is quickly gaining popularity among both manufacturers and consumers. Before 2008, only a handful of cars like the Toyota Prius had the mode (and it barely conserved any fuel). Since then, almost all vehicles have implemented this feature in their car brands.
Can You Drive in Eco Mode All the Time?
While it won’t damage your car engine like a lot of people think, there are certain situations where it is advised that you turn off your eco mode. Examples include: when you are moving heavy items from one location to another or when accelerating fast becomes necessary — like joining busy highways with other speeding vehicles.
If you do not find yourself in any of the above situations, you can drive in eco mode and rest easy, knowing the fuel consumption of your vehicle will be reduced with no severe side effects.
Is Eco Mode Bad for Your Car?
Absolutely not. Eco mode restricts your car engine from performing at maximum potential temporarily. Other than that, the eco mode has no side effects. On the other hand, you are preventing your car’s components from wearing out on time since your engine is not running as hard as it usually would.
Is Eco Mode Good For The Environment?
The effect eco mode has on the environment is often overlooked because, to be honest, it is not significant.
However, anytime your car consumes less fuel, less Carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted from the exhaust and, by extension, the rate of increase in global warming-related incidents.
When Should You Turn on Eco Mode?
You should turn on eco mode whenever you are running low on fuel and when your car will not be performing heavy duties. If, for instance, you use your vehicle to simply move around, you can turn it on at all times.
While eco mode might be new to you, there is absolutely no reason why you should be skeptical of using it to your advantage on your car. There is no doubt that manufacturers will equip more vehicles with similar features.
With the click of a button, you can save quite a lot of money.
Jim Wicks is the founder of MotorVehicleHQ. With over two decades of experience in the automotive industry and a degree in Automotive Technology, Jim is a certified car expert who has worked in various roles ranging from a mechanic, car dealership manager, to a racing car driver. He has owned more than 20 cars over the past 15 years. Ask him about any vehicle you see on the road and he can tell you the make, model and year. He loves the aesthetics of all things cars, and keeps his vehicles in pristine condition.
In his free time, Jim enjoys getting his hands dirty under the hood of a classic car or taking long drives along the country roads. His favorite car? A 1967 Shelby GT500, a true classic that, according to Jim, “represents the pure essence of American muscle.”