For someone who isn’t initiated in the world of cars, a dashboard symbol appearing can be a huge scare. Step into an electric vehicle or hybrid and things start to get real. With the UK government’s Road to Zero strategy hurtling towards making the country ultra-low emission by 2030, now is the right time to brush up on your understanding of dashboard lights and signs.
While that deadline is nine years away, according to data released by SMMT motorists are quickly making the switch. The number of electric cars registered in the UK from 2012 until the end of October 2021 was more than 675,000 plug-in vehicles, 345,000 BEVs, and 325,000 PHEVs. In the past two years, the UK electric car market has grown by 66 per cent. Furthermore, despite the impact of Covid-19, 2020 saw immense growth for plug-in vehicles.
The chances are that your next new car will be in the electric family. The days of regular oil checks and changes could well and truly be over. But one thing that alternative fuel vehicles are keeping is dashboard lights. As these can vary from one manufacturer to another, here’s our guide to electric and hybrid car dashboard symbols…
Colour-coded electric and hybrid dashboard symbols
Thanks to an easy-to-understand standard colour code, drivers can clearly comprehend what their electric or hybrid vehicle is telling them.
RED: Symbols in this colour signify high alert and are serious warnings. If they occur whilst you are driving, it’s best to pull over in a safe place and examine the problem.
AMBER / YELLOW: Any signs that pop up in this colour represent issues that can become imminent. These are problems that will need your attention at the earliest but you don’t need to stop driving.
GREEN / BLUE / BLACK: Symbols in these colours as well as white are used to provide information about the car. In most cases, they do not indicate warnings.
Electric car: Ready to Drive
When you see this symbol, it’s time to fasten your seatbelt, check your mirrors, and drive off. There’s no engine under an electric car’s bonnet so once you press the start button, it’s as quiet as a mouse. But while you soak in the silence, rest assured that the lack of audible isn’t a cause for concern. Once the car is on and ready to drive, this lit up green icon will signify that you can start driving. In some electric vehicles, you might find the words ‘Ready’ or ‘Go’ to indicate when the car is ready to take off. Also bear in mind that if this symbol doesn’t light up in green when you turn the car on, then there’s most likely a problem.
Electric car: Eco Mode
Eco mode was designed to help drivers squeeze as many miles as possible from their batteries. If that’s your goal, you’ll want to be driving in eco mode as much as you can. Eco mode equals slower acceleration which means lowered performance and enhanced efficiency. Eco mode is a choice, so if this icon suddenly lights up on your dashboard, you’ve probable pressed it by accident. Switching it off will take you back to speedier driving.
Electric car: General Fault
This one can be a little bit frustrating if it pops up because it means that there’s a general fault with the car. Many manufacturers will group a range of repairs under one warning light. When you see the spanner, it could mean that there is a problem with the electrical system, the battery or traction system, charging issues, and so on. The symbol should, however, be accompanied by a message on the display screen. Follow the instructions on screen to fix the problem.
Electric car: Limited Power
It’s a cute tortoise, and the perfect animal for the symbol that lights up to show Limited Power. Unlike the chilled-out tortoise, when this icon lights up, you need to pay attention. The Limited Power warning light is a serious one in most cases and will usually light up with a warning message to let you know what’s wrong. You’ll notice a reduction in the car’s speed which could be down to an electrical fault, battery power and temperature, or any other defect that could be affecting the car’s performance. It’s highly recommended that you immediately take the car to an approved dealer for them to check and fix the issue.
Electric car: Pedestrian Alert
Safety is the top priority for car manufacturers. And as electric cars are super quiet, the Pedestrian Alert is a much-needed warning. Pedestrians will hear an electronic sound that broadcasts when the car is at slow speed. This acts as a warning for pedestrians to avoid collisions. Some models may have the option to switch the sound off. This will automatically cause the symbol to stay lit up. If, however, it lights up at any other time, this indicates a fault with the alert.
Electric car: Low Battery
A self-explanatory symbol. When you have around 10 to 12 percent charge remaining, this icon will light up to remind you that it’s time to plug in. This symbol can vary between electric cars; sometimes it mimics the low fuel warning light of a petrol or diesel car, and other times it’s an image of an almost-empty AA battery.
You’ll see this icon really make a splash when it starts flashing. This is to indicate that you have 5 percent or less charge and that the car will be running out of power soon. This is a warning symbol in addition to the power reserve indicator, which shows how much electricity is left, and how many miles you can drive before running out or charge.
Electric car: Electrical Fault
If there’s an exclamation mark over the image of a car or battery, you’re being warned about an electrical system issue. This can involve either the batteries, motors, or wiring. For an amber warning, take the car to an approved dealer or workshop to get checked over. If the symbol is red, the car may end up shutting down or performing on reduced power. You should safely head straight to the approved garage and get it fixed.
Hybrid car: EV Operation Indicator
This light lets the driver know that they’re running on electric-only mode. You should continue driving normally, as in a hybrid, this is the most economical mode to drive in.
Hybrid car: E-Mode
When the letter ‘E’ is crossed out, this means that Electric Mode is currently unavailable for driving. This can happen because of more aggressive driving, like putting the pedal to metal to gain speed on the motorway. In this instance, the car’s electric power can’t recharge fast enough to let you switch to E-Mode. To take driving back to E-Mode, you can slow down and wait for the electric power to return.
Hybrid car: Auto-Glide Control Indicator
Often referred to as AGC, turning this light on allows the car to coast by reducing deceleration and braking interference. The objective of AGC is to improve fuel economy whilst driving.
Hybrid car: Battery Charge Level
Means what it shows; this symbol indicates that the battery is low to almost empty. Red means it’s a serious warning and in this case, the battery will need to be recharged at the earliest. Until the battery is charged up, the car will run on petrol power.
Hybrid car: Battery Temperature Warning
In hybrid and electric vehicles, the battery symbol will illuminate when the traction battery temperature is high. Or, when the engine gets too hot (hybrids). In conventional vehicles, the same message is shown via an engine light. If this icon shows up, it’s best to pull over safely, stop, and switch the car off for a while.
Hybrid car: Pedestrian Warning
Like the Pedestrian Alert on EVs, this is the warning light on hybrids where the pedestrian is the main object. The symbol will alert the driver to help prevent accidents and dangerous collisions from occurring. You should instantly brake, however, if there’s a delayed response from the driver, automatic braking will kick in.