Have you ever driven a Tesla and experienced that sharp shock when you have to brake all of a sudden? Yeah, that is what regenerative braking will do to you, and boy does it hurt if you have not positioned yourself properly in the driver’s seat.
First of all, what is regenerative braking? Moving vehicles have plenty of kinetic energy. Once the driver applies the breaks, that kinetic energy must go somewhere. Regenerative braking uses an EV motor to convert lots of that kinetic energy (as a generator) into a stored form of energy that would have otherwise been totally lost through deceleration.
As a result, when accelerating, lots of the energy that is stored with thanks to regenerative braking is used instead of the conventional energy source of the vehicle (i.e. its energy reserves). Say what you want about the environmental value of EVs, but there is no denying that this is a nifty and futuristic feature.
But be warned – regenerative braking does not magically boost your EV’s range. Instead, it is there to make your car more efficient. In other words, the most efficient way to drive any car, not just EVs, would be to drive to a constant speed and then never touch the brake pedal. Braking only removes energy, and drivers have to input extra energy to get back up to speed, so it is recommended to never slow down in the first place if a driver wants to achieve the best range for their car.
Nonetheless, that is never going to happen, as you need to brake often. On petrol and diesel vehicles, it is employed to charge the electric battery that is used to control the many ancillary systems within the vehicle. As a consequence, the engine does not need to work as much as less fuel will be consumed.
In these vehicles, the system is practically unnoticeable to drivers, but in hybrid and 100% electric cars, regenerative braking has a more serious role. In such cars, regenerative braking can support the charging of bigger batteries that directly drive the car.
So now that we know what regenerative braking is, how does it actually work on cars? Let’s find out!
How Does Regenerative Braking Actually Work?
The electric motor in an electric or hybrid vehicle runs in two distrinct directions. The first is intended to direct the wheels and thus push the car forward; the other is used to recharge the car battery. Once a driver lifts their foot from the accelerator pedal before pushing the brake pedal, the motor alters directions and thus is able to obtain energy and put it into the electric battery.
When this process happens, you can feel the vehicle begin to slow down. The sensation will differ from model to model.
All vehicles still have normal brakes, so if you push the pedal hard enough, and the hydraulic system will take action and stop you quickly (depending on your speed). It is no wonder you feel a sudden thud when you brake hard!
It is impossible to achieve 100% efficiency (without braking the laws of physics) in any car, as some energy will be lost in the form of sound, light, heat, and so forth. The efficiency of the regenerative braking process depends on the car, motor, battery, and controllers, but they tend to be 60-70% efficient.
According to Electrek, it is vital to keep in mind that 70% doesn’t infer that regenerative braking will provide a 70% range increase. This won’t increase your range from 100 to 170 miles. Instead, this means 70% of the kinetic energy lost through the process of braking can be transformed back into acceleration later.
Driving conditions can have an impact on the effectiveness of regenerative braking. You will witness much improved effectiveness for regenerative braking in city traffic where stop-and-go driving is common as opposed to, say, highway commuting. This is due to the fact that the more you brake, the more energy will be recaptured for use through regenerative braking.
Terrain is also relevant since with downhill driving, you will be given more opportunities to apply the brakes and thus benefit from recaptured energy.
Hopefully this guide has taught you everything you need to know about regenerative braking and will help you make an informed decision on your next choice of car.
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