ECO Mode and EV Mode: What Do They Do?
-Nick Borges-Silva for Wilsonville Toyota
Have you ever looked at the vast array of controls in a modern vehicle and wondered what the heck some of them do? Those controls are further complicated when you factor in the numerous driving modes available in many hybrid vehicles. We get a lot of inquiries about ECO and EV modes in particular, so we decided to put together a simple rundown on what it is these modes, and others, do. And although we’re writing primarily on Toyota’s driving modes, this information is applicable to many other makes and models.
ECO mode is one of the more obscure driving modes available. As many drivers correctly assume, its intention is to make your vehicle run more economically than it would in its normal driving mode; but what many drivers don’t know is how it achieves this effect. ECO mode ultimately aims to increase fuel efficiency by reducing acceleration levels, which—although it doesn’t actually change the vehicle’s engine power—means the accelerator will not be as sensitive and, therefore, not use as much fuel when pressed at the same interval. This feature can be useful during stop-and-go city driving when you may not want your accelerator pedal to be particularly sensitive. ECO mode can also regulate the power provided to your vehicle’s air conditioning system and other accessories to further increase fuel efficiency.
It should be noted that some vehicles come with an ECO indicator light that is very different than the ECO mode button we’re currently discussing. While putting your vehicle in ECO mode actually changes certain components within the vehicle, the ECO indicator light simply tells you if you’re driving in an economic fashion.
It’s also important to acknowledge that ECO mode isn’t exclusive to hybrid vehicles. For instance, the Corolla LE ECO has its own available ECO mode but is still a gas-only vehicle.
EV (short for Electric Vehicle) mode is only available in hybrid vehicles and is much more particular in its uses than other driving modes. If a vehicle is running in EV mode, the vehicle is only pulling power from its battery. This results in the potential for very efficient driving, but it also means the vehicle in question doesn’t have access to as much power as it normally would. That’s why EV mode typically works for just up to one mile and is only applicable under certain conditions at very low driving speeds. Due to these restrictions, it’s best to reserve EV mode for driving extremely short distances that don’t require much speed such as moving a vehicle out of a garage or driving in a parking lot.
Drivers need to be especially careful when utilizing EV mode because it can make vehicles practically silent. This means pedestrians, bikers, and other vehicles may not hear an approaching vehicle while it’s in EV mode. Therefore, it’s paramount that you pay close attention to your surroundings when using this feature.
Other Vehicle Modes (Power, Sport, and Snow)
There are many more driving modes out there in addition to EV and ECO. For instance, Power mode and Sport mode are similar to each other in that they both increase a vehicle’s acceleration levels. This change results in a perceived increase in engine power as drivers can accelerate more quickly due to higher accelerator sensitivity. As indicated above, none of the driving modes discussed in this piece actually alter the physical power that an engine possesses, but they instead change the effort needed to achieve the driver’s desired result. In short, these modes are ideal if you want easier access to engine power and pedal response. You may want to use this feature if, for example, you want to quickly speed up in order to merge onto the freeway.
Another mode you may come across is Snow mode. This mode is relatively straightforward and provides your vehicle with an increase in traction control in slippery conditions. This can be beneficial in snow and similar weather as it will help your vehicle accelerate and drive in a safer manner.
We hope this post shed some light on the various driving modes available to you and made it easier to decide when to utilize features such as increased power accessibility, traction control, fuel efficiency, and electric-only operation.
RAV4’s Locking AWD Mode
Another additional drive mode, specific to 2012-2018 RAV4 models, is the AWD lock mode. The push of a button allows your vehicle to provide power to all four wheels by locking the center differential. This is ideal if your vehicle ends up getting stuck in the mud, or if you need to drive through intensely snowy areas. It is not meant for use on dry roads or pavement, so always make sure to turn this feature back OFF before returning on your daily commute. Watch the video below to learn more.