Q: The cars we’ve been test-driving, including the Honda CR-Z and the Toyota RAV4, have this little button called the “Eco” button. It purportedly shifts the car into some sort of fuel-conserving green mode. What’s the deal with these things? Do they do anything?
A: A wide-array of vehicles now come with the eco button. It switches the vehicle into an alternative mode from what manufacturers call normal, sport or power mode, when you switch into Eco, a fuel-savings mode. How does it work? Depends on the manufacturer: the throttle isn’t as responsive, electric systems will draw less energy or the transmission will shift into a higher gear at lower rpm.
All of these methods should result in using a little less fuel. The question is how much. Most of the manufacturers promise a 5 to 10 percent improvement in fuel efficiency when you’re operating in Eco mode. That being the case, why wouldn’t you just do Eco all the time? (Or, for that matter, why wouldn’t manufacturers make vehicles that run on Eco all the time and simply eliminate the “sport “ or “power” buttons?) The savings comes from reductions elsewhere, and, depending on the methods used, most people wouldn’t be happy with the reduced ability to climb hills or accelerate onto the interstate, or the other impacts on the driving experience.
Readers weigh in: My recent response to a mom who asked for “evidence” she could use to convince her son that he really should wear his seatbelt won support from two readers who said they were all compelling arguments. But the most compelling of all is one I did not include: it’s against the law not to wear the seatbelt. Both pointed out that young men tend to think they will never be caught, but if he is, it will be an expensive lesson, and mom should not help him settle that debt, they insisted. Also, one dad mentioned that he once informed the chief of his small town of the difficulties he was having getting his son to do the seatbelt thing, and the cop, with the dad’s encouragement, picked up the kid at the next available opportunity (burned-out tail light) and gave him the facts and a big fat ticket.
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What’s your question? Sharon Peters would like to hear about what’s on your mind when it comes to caring for, driving and repairing your vehicle. Email Sharon@ctwfeatures.com