What is Eco Mode in a Car?
With vehicle computer controls becoming more and more sophisticated, in recent years it has become possible to give cars different driving modes. These change configurations for things like throttle response, transmission shift points, and suspension firmness in order to give you options for different driving modes for different circumstances. So for a Porsche 911 GT3, you’ll have a Track Mode for the hardcore performance you want on a racetrack. But for a car that’s a daily driver, a fuel-saving mode is going to be more useful.
This is where Eco Mode, or sometimes Econ Mode, comes in. This mode assists the driver to drive in a way that saves on fuel. And this is true whatever the form of fuel, as electric vehicles have this mode too. It works a bit differently for EVs, but we’ll get into that in a bit.
What Eco Mode Actually Does
Eco Mode is activated by the driver, usually in the form of a button, but sometimes it can be activated from the navigation screen or vehicle settings. For vehicles with several different driving modes, there is often a dial that includes Eco Mode. The two main things you’re likely to notice with Eco Mode on are a change in throttle response and shift points. Acceleration will be more gentle, upshifts will happen sooner, and downshifts later. All of this is done to keep engine revs low. Sometimes there will be changes to climate control as well, reducing the amount of time the compressor is on, or the heating system is being used. More advanced systems will also work with the adaptive cruise control to maintain speed without it coming at the expense of fuel economy.
Eco Mode In Electric Vehicles
Even with a different kind of “fuel” being used, Eco Mode for electric vehicles remains the same. By limiting the throttle response and reducing the impact of climate control systems, electric vehicles can limit consumption as well. Some EVs, such as the Porsche Taycan, will also have an Eco+ Mode, which takes things even further, including shutting off climate control entirely. For plug-in Hybrids, there is usually both an Eco Mode and an EV Mode. EV Mode is what it sounds like, the vehicle operates on just electric power. This saves a lot of gasoline, but range and power are limited compared to a pure EV. Eco Mode will still make use of electric power, but the gasoline engine will still provide extra power and range as needed.
Does Eco Mode Really Save Fuel?
The short answer is yes, but this requires some elaboration. For Electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, you will usually notice a pretty dramatic difference in range when switching Eco Mode on. Driving behavior can change this up to a point, but EV Eco Modes are taken pretty seriously by manufacturers. For cars that have only internal combustion engines, the results can vary quite a bit. Drivers with a light foot might not notice much difference at all, since the Eco Mode is basically just making you drive like that anyway. For more aggressive drivers, they will in theory notice a difference, but those who push the car even further in order to make up for Eco Mode settings probably won’t see much difference.
Highway driving with cruise control on is already a fuel-saving measure, so the difference there won’t be great. Similarly, stop-and-go city traffic is rough on fuel economy, and Eco Mode will help a bit, but only so much. Across all internal combustion engine vehicles on the market, and all kinds of driving conditions, it averages out to about 5% in fuel savings. That isn’t a huge amount for one tank, but it certainly adds up to significant savings over the life of the vehicle.