I’m sure you’ve come across the ‘go-green’ ECON mode button on your Honda. When you bought the car, there’s every chance the sales rep made a big deal of it, and said how ECON would save you gas and money… but just how true is this and is ECON mode worth it?
I wanted to find out just how much (if at all) the Honda ECON mode reduces gas consumption and by what margin? Below I will explain what I discovered as well as Honda Civic ECON mode MPG.
How much gas does ECON mode save in a Honda? Honda claim that the ECON mode can save up to 9.5% in fuel efficiency. Dealers tell customers that the green ECON button can improve fuel efficiency by one to two miles per gallon. However, some drivers dispute this and state no change in their Honda Civic ECON mode MPG.
Confused? You should be.
So, let’s take a closer look at what Honda say, and how they believe the ECON mode will save you gas on highways and inner-city driving. Then once I share the technical aspects, I’ve included comments by real Honda Civic and CR-V drivers like myself with their own findings.
Does Honda ECON mode save gas?
Let’s firstly see what Honda say about ECON mode saving gas. They are very clear in their marketing, and state the ECON mode works by reducing fuel consumption by almost 9.5%.
For example, let’s say you drive a Honda Civic, the ECON mode technology will save gas by lowering the throttle response by a tiny bit, shifting gears up earlier (if used in an automatic car) than usual and, by reducing the air conditioning cycles so it blows air moderately.
Honda introduced ECON mode technology in most car models in the year 2009 and it eventually spread out to the rest of their line-up. To understand in detail how much fuel the Honda ECON mode saves, we need to understand the way this system works (according to Honda).
Explaining the system in detail, Honda talks about this genius piece of tech they created in a research paper titled ‘Technology for Increased Fuel Efficiency in New Insight’. The paper is quite technical to understand so we’ll help simplify it further to understand the intricacies of the system.
How Honda says ECON mode saves gas
1. Throttle response
When one floors the throttle in their Honda, the car’s computer or ECU will then determine how much fuel to feed the engine to meet the power demand. The more the power demand, more the fuel it would need.
However, The ECON mode deals quite strictly with the throttle when you give it all the beans.
When one turns on the ECON mode, the ECU sets aside a throttle percentage range, and the car is only allowed to use that much ‘power’ that is available in that rev range.
So, even if you apply full throttle in the expectation that you’re giving full power, the ECU actually allows the engine to produce around 60% to 70% of the total power.
The point to be noted is that The ECON mode interferes in this way (when it is activated) only when it senses a quick acceleration input rather than a gradual one.
The graphs below display the scenarios well with ECON mode turned on and with ECON mode turned off.
2. Changes in automatic CVT shift timings
In normal instances where the ECON mode is turned off, the car downshifts automatically to offer more power when you step aggressively on the throttle. This raises the RPM significantly and the computer feeds more fuel to the engine.
Continue to keep the foot hard down and transmission will shift up at high RPMs causing more fuel to burn.
When the ECON mode is turned on, the CVT transmission ensures the car is driven at low RPMs regardless of the throttle input. Even if the driver steps hard on the throttle pedal, the transmission will not shift down to provide instant power.
Instead, it will gradually increase engine power and shift up quickly to stay within an ‘economical’ power band that it thinks is best to minimize fuel consumption.
Handy Hint: Here’s how much capacity the Honda Accord gas tank has from 2020 onwards.
3. Limiting the air conditioning compressor
The compressor of your car’s air conditioning system exerts quite a lot of load on the engine when you use the AC. Consequently, the engine consumes more fuel. But, the amount of stress that the AC compressor causes to the engine is directly proportional to the outside temperature.
So, if you’re driving on a hot summer day, the compressor will engage multiple times and it will run pretty hard to keep the cabin cool, thereby increasing gas consumption. Constant idling or crawling through traffic at low RPMs would cause a further increase in gas consumption.
When using the ECON mode, the system reduces compressor cycles by a significant margin – and is another way for ECON mode to save gas on highways. It also reduces the load on the engine and lastly, it will ensure to limit the compressor’s time duration.
However, the AC will take longer to reach the desired temperature in the cabin when using the ECON mode.
4. Fuel injectors
Honda has also tweaked the way its injectors work when using the ECON mode. Though this was a later addition to the cars, Honda has limited slightly, the amount of fuel the system injects into the system
Since the ECON mode takes care of the parameters mentioned above, the ECU would eventually inject only that much fuel into the engine which is enough to keep the car going smoothly at low RPMs.
How much gas does ECON mode save?
Now that you know how the ECON system works, we can now get into how much of a drop in fuel consumption you can expect when using the ECON mode in your Honda.
Leaving aside what Honda claims, I’ve read some actual reviews on forums and from what I can see, the positive answers from Honda drivers lean towards an average of 8% to 10% drop in fuel consumption.
Some users reported an increase of 1.5 mpg to 3 mpg increase in gas mileage.
Honda Civic ECON mode difference
However, not all drivers say they get this Honda Civic ECON mode MPG difference.
Here are some comments from drivers who don’t believe the Honda ECON mode is as good as the manufacturer state it is.
“I drive a 2017 Civic EX coupe, automatic, and decided to turn the ECON button off recently to see what difference in my Civic’s MPG I would get. You might be shocked to hear, as my performance has been about the same, but my mileage has actually gone up by 3 to 4 MPG.”
“I notice virtually no difference to my Honda Civic ECON mode MPG. I get a regular 37 to 38 MPG in either mode and the air conditioning seems to run the same in either. I also feel no difference in acceleration or any other differences. I personally think it is a placebo. It’s a 2016 Civic LX.”
“I just tested to see what MPG I would get in my Honda Civic with the ECON button turned on. I went through a couple of full tanks and the result is I did not get any improvements in fuel economy. It gave me the same milage with ECON button on and off.”
For proper balance though, here’s a comment from someone who did get improved MPG in their Honda Civic with the ECON mode turned on.
“In my 2014 Civic the ECON button is most efficient when driving long distances. When driving distances longer than 30 miles I average 37 to 40 MPG with it on versus approximately 33 MPG with it off. I’m a daily driver of a minimum of 50 miles per day and definitely notice a difference with the ECON on.”
So, it seems to me that it does vary on how much gas the ECON mode can save you.
If it does work for you, just think what one single button can help you save in gas and money.
One may think that 1.5 MPG isn’t a significant increase in gas mileage but, if you consider this figure in the long run, it can add up to a significant amount of saving at the end of a quarter or much more at the end of a year.
When should you not use the ECON mode?
The ECON mode is designed to work in a way where it can reduce as much load on the engine, transmission, and air conditioning as it can, thus resulting in gas savings.
There are some conditions when it isn’t advisable to use the ECON mode. A few examples where the ECON mode shouldn’t be used are:
- While overtaking or passing other vehicles.
- When it is extremely hot outside.
- When towing or carrying a full load.
- When climbing steep hills.
- When driving off-road or on challenging terrain.
When should I use the ECON mode?
It is advisable to use the ECON mode when the components involved in the system aren’t stressed. You can use the ECON mode when:
The outside temperature is moderate and doesn’t require heavy AC use
- The terrain is flat.
- Cruising on a highway.
- In the city when traffic is not too heavy.
- The car isn’t loaded to its full capacity.
- No weight is being towed or hauled.
Handy Hint: Here’s how many miles you might be able to drive when your Civic is low on fuel.
Why isn’t ECON mode increasing the mileage on my Honda?
The ECON mode works with multiple components spoken about earlier to minimize fuel consumption. If regular service schedules haven’t been followed or if any of these components aren’t functioning as they are supposed to, then the ECON mode might not help you.
Also, ensure that you aren’t using the ECON mode in situations mentioned in Q2. You might also want to ensure your tires are filled with the required air pressure. Low air pressure can also cause fuel consumption to increase.
To conclude, the jury is still out on whether you will get an improved MPG when using the Honda ECON mode. Honda say you will, and some drivers say they do save gas… but others say they don’t.
Use it, test it, and see what results you get when driving on highways and residential areas and decide whether ECON mode is worth it.