What Does Eco Mean on Cars?

December 4, 2023

With all the innovations that auto makers are plugging into new cars at breakneck speed, it’s an eventuality that you’re going to come across a control on your dashboard or steering wheel that you don’t understand. For example, you might notice an “eco mode” button with a green leaf on it. What does this mean, and when should you use it?

The eco mode (or Econ mode, if you’re driving a hybrid) is a setting that allows you to maximize your fuel mileage by altering how your car operates. The specifics of how it works will vary slightly by manufacturer, but the general idea is to help you squeeze a few more miles out of every gallon or liter.

To accomplish this, the eco mode will usually slow down your vehicle’s acceleration by making its throttle less reactive. This means you can’t accelerate as quickly when in eco mode, but it won’t make your car go any slower overall. It will also lower the transmission’s shifting speeds and, in some vehicles, even reduce the air conditioning’s power output.

The limiting factor here is that you still need to drive safely. You should never be in eco mode if you’re driving at high speeds, and you shouldn’t be using it in areas with heavy traffic. It’s also important to note that eco mode doesn’t change how your brakes work, so you should always keep a firm hand on the pedal when in any mode.


Traffic Dave is on a mission to help traffic engineers, transportation planners, and other transportation professionals improve our world.
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