All About Toyota Prius ECO Mode

ECO mode can ensure your Toyota Prius lasts longer and gets the 55 mpg fuel economy that you were promised—learn about it here!
Written by Drew Waterstreet
Reviewed by Brittni Brinn
Nobody does efficiency better than the Toyota Prius—except the Toyota Prius in ECO mode!
ECO mode is an optional driving mode that you can activate to reduce the strain on your Prius’s engine, which effectively improves your gas mileage. But how does it work? How does it differ from the other driving modes?
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What is the Toyota Prius ECO mode?

According to the owner’s manual, here’s how the Toyota Prius ECO mode works: the torque generated in response to accelerator pedal depression will lessen compared to normal, and air conditioner operation (heating/cooling) will be restrained, resulting in improved fuel efficiency.
In other words, ECO mode regulates instruments that use power in your vehicle, alleviating pressure on the engine. With this freed-up power, your engine can redistribute it to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions—it’s economical and ecological!

Does Toyota Prius ECO mode save fuel?

The Toyota Prius has a hybrid powertrain capable of achieving around 55 mpg while in normal driving mode. But when you activate ECO mode, you can expect to get a couple more miles per gallon. It’s not much, but every bit counts!

Does Toyota Prius ECO mode charge the battery?

Thanks to its innovative hybrid powertrain system, the Toyota Prius is one of the OG masters at recycling energy. It leverages regenerative braking as a mechanism to convert friction into energy that can be used immediately or stored in your battery until needed. 
However, you do not need to be in ECO mode to charge your battery with recycled energy. This function is active in all driving modes.

What’s the difference between Normal, PWR, EV, and ECO mode?

Toyota Prius drivers have four different driving modes that can be easily switched between to accommodate the demands of your current driving environment. Let us show you what they are and how we recommend using them:
  • Normal: Balances your driving experience to equally accommodate for performance, efficiency, and comfort (everyday driving)
  • ECO: Regulates energy output of climate controls and acceleration to improve efficiency (city driving, start and stop traffic)
  • PWR: Opposite of ECO mode, it enhances throttle response for improved acceleration (passing on the highway, going up steep hills)
  • EV: The Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid can operate entirely on electricity for about 25 miles before switching over to the hybrid powertrain (always if you have it)
MORE: How to turn your Toyota Prius into a temporary generator

How to turn Toyota Prius ECO mode on and off

Most Toyota Prius models have a physical button on the center dashboard that you can press to activate ECO mode, with separate buttons for other driving modes. A notification will illuminate once you’ve pushed it to indicate you’ve entered ECO mode. Another press of the button will shift you back into normal driving mode. 
This action can be done at any point while driving, so you can easily switch between driving modes as your conditions change.

Is the Toyota Prius ECO mode worth it?

The answer is yes, but the reason is a little more complex.
The fuel efficiency improvement when entering ECO mode is negligible. You will only get a mile or two extra per gallon, which isn’t that convincing when the Prius already averages 55 mpg. You also have to deal with the toned-down acceleration and regulated climate controls when using ECO mode.
But, the most significant benefit is the reduced demand on your engine. When used correctly, ECO mode reduces energy output from your engine. So, if your engine doesn’t have to work as hard, it should have a longer lifespan and will produce fewer emissions. 
So here’s the moral of the story: you’re not going to want to use ECO mode when you need the heater on those cold winter days or if you’re late for a meeting. But if those things aren’t of current necessity, ECO mode can be great for some fuel savings and overall engine health.
MORE: How to choose an eco-friendly car
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