“Check engine,” “oil level low,” “service engine soon.” These are all dashboard symbols us drivers are familiar with and have previously dreaded when they’re blinking in our faces after we’re already running late. The inrush of electric and hybrid vehicle sales in recent years has made certain dashboard symbols obsolete (bye-bye, oil changes). However, that is not to say that these eco-friendly vehicles don’t have their own unique symbols that drivers, especially those new to EVs, should be aware of.
Hybrid dashboard symbols
If it wasn’t already clear from this vehicle type’s namesake, hybrids offer a bridge between the endangered world of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles and the ever-growing electric vehicle market. Hybrids offer solace to those carbon-conscious drivers who are intrigued by EVs but may not have the charging capabilities or funds to dive straight into the electric pool yet.
While hybrid vehicles have many new and unique dashboard symbols drivers should learn to recognize, they still share many of the traditional symbols with ICE vehicles. This is due to the not so subtle fact that they still rely on a gasoline engine when the electric battery is charging.
For the sake of space, time, and the fact that you’ve probably learned most of those dashboard symbols in driver’s ed., we will skip those ICE symbols in favor of the new and exciting ones.
Electric dashboard symbols
Much like hybrids share a number of dashboard similarities with ICE vehicles, they also share plenty of newer symbols with electric vehicles. With no dependency on oil or gasoline, there is an even larger focus on the battery of your electric vehicle. Whether it’s too hot, too cold, or not sufficiently charging, all could trigger dashboard symbols you’ll need to be mindful of.
To show rather than tell, we have prepared a chart showcasing several of the lesser-known dashboard symbols that could be seen in electric and/or hybrid vehicles. Below that is a numbered list coinciding with each symbol to offer further details about a given symbol. For further details, Leasing Options offers a detailed breakdown as well.
Hybrid and electric dashboard symbols by number
- Auto Glide Control – This symbol indicates the AGC feature is active. Auto Glide Control helps reduce deceleration force in hybrids, allowing the vehicle to coast more while boosting fuel economy.
- Battery Charge Level Warning – This symbol indicates that the charge left in the battery of a hybrid or electric vehicle is low, and the driver should charge back up soon. For hybrids, it also means the engine may have to take over until the battery can recuperate some charge.
- Battery Temperature Warning – Similar to ICE vehicles (although the symbol is a battery instead of an engine), this symbol will light up when battery temperature is too high. Stop or pull over immediately to let it cool off.
- Eco Mode – When this symbol is illuminated, it indicates Eco mode. This means your vehicle will adapt to get the most miles out of the battery. It’s important to note that while this mode is active, acceleration and overall performance is reduced to varied degrees to obtain greater efficiency.
- EV mode indicator – This one is simple and applies to hybrid drivers. It indicates that your vehicle is currently running in electric-only mode. You can continue to run your errands without worry.
- General Electric Issue – This symbol means there’s an issue with the car’s electrical system. Unfortunately, it’s a rather broad symbol and could mean there’s an issue with anything from the motors, to interior wiring or the battery. Amber or red coloring of this symbol helps indicate the seriousness of the issue, but if you see this one, you should seek inspection and service immediately
- General Issue – This is another broad symbol. Some automakers group a range of warnings under one warning light to save precious dashboard space. Errors under this general warning could include issues with the traction system, sensors, or the charging system to name a few
- Low Battery – This one is similar to the Battery Charge Level Warning, but applies specifically to fully-electric vehicles. Think of it as a “low fuel” light; your EV will warn you to charge your battery with around 12% left and then again at 5%.
- Pedestrian Warning – Since hybrids (in electric mode) and EVs are so quiet, there are serious dangers of creeping up on unsuspecting passersby. The pedestrian warning system helps prevent accidents by alerting the driver of imminent danger of a collision. In most vehicles, if no action is taken by the driver, automatic braking will kick in.
- Limited Power – This symbol is as appropriate as it is dangerous. A warning light in amber or red could be caused by various faults that are causing the vehicle’s performance to be less responsive than normal. This could mean major issues for your EV, so it’s best to head straight to a manufacturer certified shop to take a gander.
- Ready to Drive – While you’ll want to avoid many of these symbols as much as possible, this is one of the few you should be looking for before departing. This symbol simply indicates your hybrid or EV is ready to drive… you know, since it’s nearly silent and you may not always be positive if it’s even on.
- Regenerative Braking System – This symbol is an indicator that the regenerative braking system is active and may light up when the EV is performing regenerative braking.
- Regenerative Brake Warning – This symbol will illuminate when the regenerative brake does not operate or is not performing correctly. This symbol may be accompanied by a red brake warning light. It could also mean this is an issue with the RBS as a whole. Best to get your vehicle over to an authorized service center ASAP.
- External Sound System Issue – An external sound system is used by EVs and hybrids in EV mode to alert pedestrians to the presence of the vehicle and avoid collisions. If this symbol is lit up at any point, there may be an issue with the external speakers or the system itself.
Dashboard Symbols on Tesla
It would be remiss to discuss electric vehicle dashboards without specifically mentioning the current worldwide leader in the space, Tesla. While Tesla has been lionized for its innovation and design within its fleet, its dashboard indicator lights are truthfully… not that special.
That is in no way a dig at the automaker either. No one is expecting them to create new warning lights just to wet the beaks of the adoring fans. In reality, nearly all of the symbols currently inhabiting the Tesla dash are recognizable if you’ve driven any vehicle before.
In true Tesla fashion, a less is more approach limits the indicator lights to the most simple and necessary. As you can see in the image above, icons like seat belt warning and tire pressure are pretty standard.
One icon that is (more) unique and worth pointing out is the Active Air Suspension indicator. Tesla’s self-leveling air suspension is unique compared to many other vehicles, and its icon is one that Tesla owners should be aware of. If this icon of an SUV with arrows pointing up and down is illuminated in amber, then there is a fault within the system, and you should contact Tesla.
If that same icon is illuminated in red, that means that the entire system has been disabled in order for the Tesla to be jacked up. This is more of an indicator that the air suspension system has been disabled and less of a warning. So while the red might seem like a bigger issue, the yellow actually relays a fault.
With that said, it’s best to make sure the air suspension is turned back on after any sort of jacking or maintenance is complete.
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