With unpredictable gas prices and the increasing awareness of climate change, car manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to increase gas mileage, improve vehicle efficiency, and cut back on emissions. Honda one of the carmakers which devised a technology to meet the challenge.
Honda’s Eco Assist System was first introduced in 2009 on its hybrid models. The technology was made available later on to other models. The ECON mode is designed to work in tandem with the Eco Assist System which provides driving feedback, and the ECON mode which focuses on fuel efficiency. To get most of what your Honda vehicle has to offer, it is important to learn what ECON mode is, how it works, its advantages and disadvantages, and when to use it.
What is the Honda ECON mode
What ECON mode does is that it optimizes vehicle systems to increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. ECON mainly affects the throttle, climate control, transmission, and cruise control on Honda vehicles. Honda’s engineers focused on these systems because their operation directly affects fuel consumption. By making a few tweaks between these systems through ECON mode, a balance between performance and fuel efficiency is achieved.
How does the ECON mode work
At the push of a button, ECON mode can be enabled or disabled to suit your driving needs. When enabled, ECON mode automatically adjusts the following vehicle systems to optimize performance and minimize fuel consumption.
ECON makes the greatest impact on fuel consumption by adjusting the throttle response of your vehicle. While the ECON mode is active, the throttle will feel a bit gentle and less powerful. The throttle opens more slowly to reduce the acceleration of your vehicle at cruising speeds. By slowing down the rate that your vehicle accelerates, less fuel is consumed. The feature affects the middle range of your throttle without affecting the lower and upper ranges.
Honda engineered the ECON mode this way because under ideal highway driving conditions, you seldom need to accelerate your vehicle further once it hits cruise speeds. This is especially true when you already hit the speed limit. Unnecessarily or unintentionally depressing the gas pedal while cruising on a highway increases fuel consumption. ECON ensures that an optimal amount of fuel is delivered to the engine, just enough to maintain the cruise speed.
ECON mode also affects the transmission altering its shift points, allowing for a smoother transition between shifts. Activating ECON allows automatic transmissions to shift more quickly, delivering torque more efficiently. While ECON mode is active, your transmission shifts to higher gears earlier to save gas. Perfectly timed shifts not only lead to better fuel economy but also improves vehicle operation.
It is important to remember that activating the ECON mode while driving on rough roads may be counterproductive. Your vehicle may not get the necessary power it needs to drive rough terrain because ECON limits downshifting.
When cruise control is activated, your car will tend to shift often to maintain cruise speeds. To conserve fuel, ECON mode limits the frequency the transmission shifts between gears. Frequent shifting increases fuel consumption since the engine needs to burn more fuel at lower gears than at high gears.
Enabling the ECON mode is not ideal while driving at low speeds either on bad roads or in heavy traffic. Under these conditions, the transmission will be forced to shift more often defeating the purpose of the feature.
ECON mode affects your climate controls by regulating the operation of your air conditioning system. When enabled, ECON mode reduces the consumption of the air conditioning system by focusing more on circulating the air than continually running the A/C system at full blast. The A/C compressor is driven by the engine and puts a load on it while in operation. To save energy, ECON intermittently turns the compressor on and off while maintaining the temperature inside the vehicle.
Ideally, you should activate ECON mode when the weather is fair and cool. Turning on the ECON mode while driving in hot and humid weather may lead to an uncomfortable ride since the output of the A/C system is restricted to a degree. This creates a situation where the features of the ECON mode become mutually exclusive. And this means that you cannot avail throttle response, transmission, and cruise control optimizations when you disable ECON mode while driving in hot weather.
When to use the ECON mode
- Driving on the highway
- Driving on cooler days
- Driving with a light load
When to not use the ECON mode
- Hot and humid days
- Driving in heavy traffic
- Bad road conditions
- Hilly or mountainous terrain
- Towing or driving with a heavy load
- Overtaking another vehicle
Does ECON mode save gas?
Yes. This is precisely what Honda engineers had in mind when they developed the ECON mode. As previously discussed, the ECON mode manages some of the vehicle systems to improve fuel consumption and efficiency. With a reduced engine load, the fuel consumed by the engine is lesser compared to standard operating conditions.
Can you leave the ECON button on?
You can leave the ECON button on but it is not advisable in some cases. You will need to turn the ECON mode off to suit driving and climate conditions. It is recommended that you turn off ECON mode when you are driving on a hot and humid day, on dangerous roads, or in heavy traffic.
Is it bad to always drive in ECON mode?
Not necessarily. If the route to your destination requires you to drive on the highway where the roads are smooth and there is less traffic, driving on ECON mode from the get-go is recommended. However, when you are driving through the city, or when the road conditions are poor, it is best to turn off ECON mode.
Should I use ECON mode on the highway?
Yes. You should turn on ECON mode while on the highway. The full advantage of ECON mode can be harnessed on long stretches of road. Your car does not need to work as much while on the highway as compared to, say, driving on a rough road or within the city.