Nissan's ECO Pedal Pushes for Better Mileage

Even hypermilers, the fiercely efficient drivers who stretch a tank of gas as far as humanly and automotively possible, might chafe at Nissan’s latest attempt to increase the efficiency of their cars. The Japanese auto giant unveiled the ECO Pedal yesterday, a “driver assistance” device that calculates your optimal acceleration and pushes back on the accelerator if your lead foot is weighing a little too heavily on the pedal. Nissan says the device can improve a car’s fuel efficiency 5 to 10 percent and plans to commercialize the feature in 2009.

The device is fed fuel consumption and transmission efficiency data to figure out the most fuel-efficient acceleration and cruising rates. The pedal’s push-back mechanism is linked to an in-dash display that blinks and changes colors when you’re leaning a little heavy on the gas. Hypermilers know smooth and steady acceleration is a good way to save fuel, but having your car fight back doesn’t sound like a pleasurable driving experience.

Still, the device shows that automakers are thinking outside the box when it comes to increasing their cars’ fuel efficiency. Nissan has a “triple-layer” approach that includes addressing driver behavior (which the ECO Pedal does), vehicle technology and traffic conditions to improve efficiency. But don’t worry. If you’ve got some fancy get-away driving to do you can switch the system off and put the pedal to the metal, efficiency be damned!

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