There are two basic ways to maximum mpg – have a fuel efficient vehicle and drive your vehicle efficiently. Honda’s Eco Assist does both. Eco Assist, short for ‘Ecological Drive Assist System,’ performs two basic functions. First, there is a sophisticated feedback system that coaches drivers to drive more efficiently. In addition there’s an ECON button that optimizes the vehicle’s operation to maximize fuel efficiency. The system debuted on the Honda Insight hybrid in 2009 and Honda has expanded availability to other Honda models including the Civic, CR-V, and Accord.
Eco Assist helps drivers develop driving habits that enhance fuel efficiency by providing feedback via color-changing displays, typically integrated in the speedometer, that indicate fuel efficiency in real time. Fuel-saving behaviors like smooth acceleration and braking cause the display to glow green. Somewhat less fuel-efficient driving habits glow blue-green. Aggressive starts and stops that consume extra fuel cause the display to glow blue. By striving to keep the display in the green, drivers receive help in developing driving habits that improve fuel economy.
Pressing the green dash-mounted ‘ECON’ button optimizes operation of the transmission, engine, and other powertrain components to help conserve additional fuel. For example, a gentler throttle pedal setting limits power and torque by a small amount. Also, air conditioning is set to consume less energy by operating more in the recirculation mode or reducing the speed of the automatic climate control blower. On hybrid vehicles, the Idle Stop feature might be engaged sooner, the CVT (continuously variable transmission) further optimized, and battery charging during regenerative braking increased.
Drivers of Honda hybrids are provided additional feedback about cumulative, long-term driving style via a Multi-Information Display (MID). This includes fuel economy figures for the past three trips, as well as instantaneous and average fuel economy statistics. The goal is to encourage drivers to take an interest in developing fuel efficient driving habits over the long term. Here, ‘green’ driving styles are rewarded by the number of leaves displayed in the instrument cluster, indicating the level of environmentally responsible driving performance. With the ignition switch on, the display scores driving practices in real time. When the ignition switch is turned off the leaves score driving in the just-completed cycle (startup to shutdown), while a horizontal bar in the lower part of the display scores cumulative lifetime driving performance.
Eco Assist combines multiple functions – the driver-activated ECON mode that optimizes control of the continuously variable transmission, engine, and related powertrain components to conserve fuel, plus the scoring function. The latter provides cumulative, long-term feedback through the graphic leaves that grow over time as drivers learn and implement driving practices that increase fuel economy.