Insights / The mechanics behind regenerative braking

Stopping power – the mechanics behind regenerative braking

23rd November 2021

Braking a car works in a simple way. Press down on the brake pedal with your foot and the brake pads squeeze onto the brake discs. The resulting friction slows the car down. It’s the same with brake blocks on the wheel rim of a bike.

But with a conventional car, the only energy that’s released when braking is some heat between the pads and discs (Formula 1 fans may have seen that the brakes occasionally glow from getting so hot).

But in an electric vehicle (EV), some of the energy produced every time you brake is used to charge up the battery.

It’s most striking when you’re doing what’s known as ‘one-pedal driving’ in an EV. That is, when you’re using the same pedal to speed the car up and to slow it down.

It’s called regenerative braking. And it happens because electric motors can also generate electricity.

In one-pedal driving, when your foot’s on the accelerator pedal, it’s sending power from the battery to the motor to turn the wheels. As soon as you take your foot off the pedal and the car starts to slow down, the whole process goes into reverse. The wheels turn, driving the motor and sending power back to the battery.

The process isn’t completely efficient, with some energy wasted. But it’s much less wasteful than braking in an ICE vehicle, where that useful energy is dispersed as heat.

Regenerative braking can feel a little like engine braking in an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. But it’s doing more than helping to slow the EV down. It’s also recharging the battery, giving your drivers greater range between charges.

Many of the latest EV models allow the driver to choose what level of regenerative braking they want. The higher the level, the greater the amount of charge that goes to the battery. It’s all a question of what the driver feels comfortable with.

So, regenerative braking can help your vehicles go further between charges – allowing for even more efficiency amongst your fleet. Is it time your organisation switched to the technology of the future?

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