Drive

Heavy foot? Honda’s Econ function offers fuel savings

No matter what type of vehicle you’re driving, your fuel economy will improve if you keep a light foot on the throttle. Many automakers are now making it easier by including an “Economy” button that will help do it for you.

“The Econ button has the ability to make you drive gently,” says Hayato Mori, manager of product planning for Honda Canada. “It will feel like your engine just went down one size. The car functions fine, but if you’re used to certain acceleration, you sacrifice a bit of performance for fuel (savings).”

The Econ button affects the throttle response and air conditioning, along with the transmission on automatic-equipped vehicles.

Most cars no longer have a cable or mechanical linkage connecting the throttle pedal to the engine. Instead, your foot pressure on the pedal sends an electronic signal to a computer that determines how much fuel to send to the engine.

Since hard “jackrabbit starts” are wasteful, the Econ system regulates a gentler throttle response, although you’ll still have power to get up to speed or to pass other traffic.

Staying in a lower gear as your speed increases makes your engine work harder. An automatic transmission will always shift gears when the engine speed is high enough that the next gear is appropriate. But in Econ mode, the transmission will shift into the higher gears as soon as possible to reduce the load on the engine, which also saves fuel.

The Econ system won’t have any control over a manual transmission, where it’s up to the driver to shift gears, but there may be an upshift light in the dash. This advises the driver, based on the engine speed, when he should shift to a higher gear for better fuel economy.

Finally, when the Econ button is activated and the air conditioning is on, the system will limit the length of time the a/c condenser runs. The condenser uses engine power, so while the cabin may be slightly warmer than with full a/c, you’ll notice a difference in fuel consumption.

Several Honda vehicles have lights in the instrument cluster, which coach you to drive more efficiently by changing from green to blue if your foot’s too heavy. “If you follow the coaching lights and use the Econ button, you can get up to four and possibly six per cent savings in fuel,” Mori says.

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