What is regenerative braking?

If you know anything about electric cars or you are considering making the switch to one, you have probably come across the term regenerative braking. But what exactly is it, and how does it work in electric cars? Continue reading to find out exactly that!  

Summary

  • Electric cars are fitted with regenerative braking to help conserve energy and increase the driving range 
  • It works by converting kinetic energy used by braking into electricity which is stored in the car’s battery

What is regenerative braking?

Regenerative braking is a technology developed in the 60’s which converts waste kinetic energy lost during braking (i.e heat) and transforms it into electricity. It’s now commonly used in hybrid and electric cars and in most modern ICE (internal combustion engines). 

Fiat 500e driving to Borough Market in London

How does it work?

In conventional petrol or diesel cars, when the brakes are applied the car slows down and heat is generated because of the friction on the brake pads. Traditionally, most of this energy is lost.  

In most modern cars, this heat is instead directed to the electric motor which converts the energy into electricity. In electric and hybrid vehicles, this is stored in the car’s battery pack and helps to increase the driving range. 

What are the advantages of regenerative braking?

  • It can help to conserve battery and extend the driving range of electric and hybrid vehicles
  • If used with one-pedal driving systems, it can make driving easier as the brakes will rarely need to be applied
  • Regenerative braking can help to reduce tyre wear and tear (caused by friction on the brake pads) as the brakes are used less
  • It can help to reduce the carbon emissions associated with electric car charging (from fossil fuel energy sources) – since the car can be charged less frequently. Though, if you charge your electric car using renewable sources, then this isn’t an issue anyway!

What are the disadvantages of regenerative braking?

  • It can take some time to get used to a new way of driving, particularly with one-pedal driving
  • The sensitivity of the braking system can vary car to car 
  • It doesn’t work as well in stop start traffic or steady motorway driving   

How do you drive with regenerative braking?

In the same way as any other car! However, it can take time to get used to it as you can feel the car braking by itself. As soon as you stop accelerating, the car will start slowing down. In addition to this, some cars also have one-pedal driving functionality. When this is activated, as soon as the driver releases the acceleration, the car will slow down and it will come to an eventual stop. This is extremely useful for city driving, since there is no need to switch between pedals. 

FAQs

Is regenerative braking only found in electric cars?

No, it’s also used in modern conventional combustion engine (petrol/diesel) vehicles. The energy generated is used to power systems like air conditioning, or power steering. 

Can regenerative braking stop a car?

Yes! Many regenerative braking systems include ‘one pedal driving’ mode. When activated, the car will come to a smooth stop without the need for the driver to press the brake pedal.

Can you turn regenerative braking off?

That really depends on the make and model of you car. Some cars, like Tesla give you the ability to adjust the strength of the regenerative braking or turn it off completely. But for the majority of electric cars, it cannot be turned off. 

What is one-pedal driving?

One-pedal driving allows drivers to use the acceleration pedal almost exclusively to control the car. As soon as the acceleration pedal is released by the driver, the car will start to slow down and come to a full stop.

A Citroën e-c4 parked on road outside a house

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