Braking in 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 – a bit like the brake blocks do on the wheel rim of a bike.
With a conventional, internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, the only energy that braking releases is some heat between the pads and discs. (Formula 1 fans may have seen that the brakes occasionally glow from getting so hot).
However, an electric vehicle (EV) uses some of the energy produced when braking to charge up the battery. This is called regenerative braking – and it happens because electric motors can generate electricity.
Regenerative braking is most striking when you’re ‘one-pedal driving’ in an EV – using the same pedal to both speed the car up and slow it down.
In one-pedal driving, having your foot on the accelerator pedal sends power from the battery to the motor to turn the wheels. As soon as you take your foot off the pedal, the car starts to slow down and puts the whole process 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.
While regenerative braking can feel a little like engine braking in an ICE vehicle, it’s doing more than slowing the EV down – it’s also recharging the battery. And this gives 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 greater levels of fleet efficiency. Is it time your organisation switched to the technology of the future?