BMW ECO PRO

The biggest influencer of fuel economy is the driver. Low rolling resistance tyres save 3%; auto stop-start can save 5% or more. 

The driver, however, can save 20% – and it is this massive potential, greater even than the sum total of every Bluemotion-style pack of eco changes to date, that BMW is seeking to tap into.

The new BMW 1 Series marks the debut of ECO PRO, an interactive function of iDrive that teaches greener driving and rewards for doing so (it’s also coming to the new 3 Series too). We’ve had such systems before – Fiat’s eco:Drive, Ford and Honda’s ‘petals’ and so forth – but BMW’s is the best yet.

More than just an electronic ‘badge’ that are usually an intriguing gimmick for a few weeks but then forgotten, ECO PRO offers tangible benefits that offer the potential for game-changing developments in the future.

It is opt-in: drivers must select ECO PRO from the BMW drive select switch (‘anti-Sport’ as one engineer dubbed it). Doing so does three things:

  • Selects bespoke settings within engine ECU

  • Optimises electric load

  • Displays ECO PRO screen

The electric load saver function is meritorious in itself. No mainstream maker has fitted a function that dials back the electrical consumption of accessories such as electric seats and heated rear window: a bit like the National Grid cutting power delivery to your house.

The interactive element is the snazzy bit. All the time you are consuming less fuel than the car’s combined average, the famed BMW economy gauge (now electronically represented) dives into the blue zone. Blue means you’re saving fuel – and the deeper you can get it in there, the more fuel you’re saving.

There’s more. To make it tangible, an additional readout, also in blue, shows how many miles more you’re getting from the tank. This is the ingenious part: the more you take it steady, the more miles you eek out.

It is reset each time you refuel, so is stored even if you turn the engine off. Thus, a permanent incentive to save fuel and claw the miles back. A savings account that’s in your hands – so if you want a ‘free’ 50-mile’ trip on the weekended, ease off to claw back the miles.

There’s yet more. Don’t get the idea of eco driving? ECO PRO to the rescue – it flashes up tips and hints on the screen as you go, based on an analysis of driving style. It knows that heavy braking is not efficient, nor is going fast, nor is accelerating hard, nor is holding onto gears.

All of this stuff may be obvious to us, but it’s not to all: a few lines of text saying as much, as the driver commits the eco error, will soon give them the idea.

And as it’s all part of the challenge, if they’re engaged by saving fuel, they’ll be keen to take the messages on board.

Is this gamification of saving fuel, with an active feedback loop to provide tuition, the future of saving fuel? The driver is the single biggest key to big, big gains in fuel efficiency: are we to see more onboard games in the future, feeding a real-time PlayStation Network to turn drivers into eco-inspired gamers?

+ BMW 1 Series power meters

+ VW Golf R dials’ cool blue point

+ Diesel drives Peugeot sub-130g/km CO2 win