Does the ‘Eco Mode’ button actually save you money on gas?

With gas prices hovering at around $2 a liter, if you have the “eco mode” button on your vehicle you are probably hoping it will save you some money at the pumps.

However, while some auto manufacturers promise savings of as much as 12 per cent, or $12 for every $100 you put in your tank, chances are it’s closer to five per cent, or $5 in savings per $100.

“I would say definitely use it. It just makes sense with today’s high prices to try and save money,” according to Sheldon Williamson, Professor at the Automotive Center of Excellence at Ontario Tech University.

Auto manufacturers created the eco mode option that is on many newer vehicles, but some drivers may have wondered when the eco button lights up exactly how much they’re really saving.

Williamson said data shows, depending on your vehicle, the eco mode may not help you save as much as some automakers claim.

“Different auto manufacturers claim 10 to 12 per cent in fuel savings, but the real data shows that it’s more like five to six per cent, maybe seven per cent in savings,” said Williamson.

Williams said there is evidence that shows higher end luxury cars packed with more technological advances may be more likely to reach the 12 per cent savings threshold.

“It’s giving you instant feedback on the optimal speed and torque for the engine,” said Williamson.

Also, when it comes to eco mode, it really depends on the make and model of your vehicle because each auto manufacturer says their button saves gas in different ways.

CTV News reached out to Toyota Canada and a spokesperson said “A truly functional ECO function is one of several features in Toyota and Lexus vehicles designed to further increase fuel efficiency – and, thus, further reduce carbon emissions. The ECO function, or ‘ECO Mode’, modifies engine and transmission behavior to offer better fuel economy. Many Toyota and Lexus vehicles also have an ECO function as part of their ventilation system. Activating this function allows the air conditioning to operate using reduced power, once again benefiting fuel economy – and further reducing carbon emissions.”

CTV News Toronto also heard from Stellantis Communications and a spokesperson said “On Stellantis vehicles with an ECO (fuel saver) mode, activating the ECO switch will change the automatic transmission shift points (mapping) to prompt the trans to shift into higher gears sooner ( higher gears = lower rpms = better fuel economy) and holds each higher gear longer (delays downshift) as the car decelerates.”

“It also adjusts the response of the throttle pedal for a more gentle ramp up of rpm (minimizes “jack rabbit” starts) and if the vehicle is equipped with Multi Displacement System (cylinder deactivation), the mode expands the zone where MDS operates on 4 cylinders to reduce fuel consumption.”

Honda Canada told CTV News Toronto through a spokesperson “Honda’s ECON button can save money on gas when engaged by changing the settings on a variety of systems. It adjusts the throttle response, limits the shifting behavior, reduces A/C system capacity, and reduces the fuel injection to increase fuel efficiency.”

Honda added it’s ECON mode works best cruising on the highway at a steady speed, traveling through the city under normal conditions, driving across flat terrain, when nothing is being towed and when you don’t need maximum air conditioning. Honda added ECON mode not ideal on very hot days, when merging on and off the highway, when overtaking other vehicles, when towing or on off road or on steep hills.

Williamson said the bottom line is that eco mode does work but don’t expect huge fuel savings. It’s also a feature that can be left on at all times if you are seeking maximum fuel efficiency.

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