No matter what type of car you buy, its fuel economy ultimately comes down to how you use your right foot. It never hurts to have a reminder, though, which is what Infiniti drivers receive from their Eco Pedal.
The new feature, available on the all-new Infiniti M, is part of a control system that lets the driver select one of four driving modes: Standard, Sport, Snow or Eco. Each adjusts throttle sensitivity and the transmission’s shift points for optimal performance in each mode, but when it’s set to Eco, there’s even more to encourage you to keep your driving on the lighter side.
“As you accelerate, there’s a light that comes on in the dashboard,” says Ian Forsyth, Director of Corporate Planning for Nissan Canada.
“If it’s green, you’re accelerating in an economical way, but if you go beyond that, it’s yellow, and it resists the pedal going down. It’s telling you that you’re accelerating in a way that’s uneconomical. You can go past it, but you feel the pedal stiffening under your foot.”
The magic is contained in a series of sensors and an actuator mechanism in the pedal, and when the sensors determine that the driver is pressing harder than necessary, the mechanism increases the pedal resistance.
“If you were driving in relatively heavy stop-and-go traffic, and there’s no reason to accelerate particularly hard, it would help you to do that,” Forsyth says.
“Or if there’s no one around, but you want to be very fuel-efficient, it’s an aid to telling you when you’re driving efficiently and when you’re not.”
The same sensors and mechanism are also used in the available Distance Control Assist System. A radar sensor in the Infiniti’s front bumper detects vehicles in front, and determines how far away they are and the relative speed of both cars. If the Infiniti gets too close to the vehicle ahead, and the driver is still pressing the accelerator, the actuator will press the pedal up against the driver’s foot as a warning and an assist to release it.
The throttle itself is electronic; the mechanism is a separate actuator built into the pedal. A brake override system is also built in.
“We’ve designed our throttle pedal so that we can give you this resistance for the Eco setting, and also in the Distance Control to push the pedal up if you get too close to the vehicle in front,” Forsyth says. “It says, ‘I’ve measured the closing rate and you should do something about it.’”