Did you know that the first electric car was invented about the same time as the internal combustion engine?
Both were created in the 1870s, yet the gas-powered engine has become the automotive industry standard for the past century. Braking systems have been using the same friction based model, but engineers have developed a regenerative braking system for electric vehicles (EVs). Just like the electric vehicle itself, regenerative brakes are all about conserving energy. The kinetic energy lost when braking must be transferred and stored as energy for the vehicle’s battery. Regenerative brakes extend your electric vehicle’s range, as well as prevents brake repair needs.
When we’re talking about the effectiveness of a regenerative braking system, we’re not just talking about its ability to slow down. Of course that’s important, but regenerative brakes are designed to capture as much of the kinetic energy that’s lost when a vehicle is in motion and then brakes. Typically that energy is lost as heat, but a regenerative braking system allows it to be stored and used by the EV’s battery. You can determine how effective the regenerative brakes are by calculating how the vehicle’s overall range is affected.
The efficiency of regenerative braking systems are not all the same. The environment and the conditions in which they are driving will have a huge impact on its efficiency. For instance, it only makes sense that an EV will be more efficient in a city’s stop-and-go traffic because drivers are constantly braking, thereby directing energy back to the battery. On the open highway, a driver would only be using battery power. The type of terrain also matters since the amount of braking, and storing energy, will vary depending on how often you need to brake.
The size of the vehicle also has a huge impact on how effective the regenerative braking system will be. The larger the vehicle, the more kinetic energy is created by its moving and braking. Ultimately, the more efficient the regenerative brakes are at recapturing energy, the more effective it will be at expanding its range. Not all electric vehicles are the same, but they will generally recapture anywhere from 60% - 70% of the kinetic energy that would normally be lost.
In addition to preserving or extending the electric vehicle’s range, regenerative braking systems are able to extend the lifespan of brake parts and avoid brake repairs. The amount of wear-and-tear on the regenerative braking system is minimal, when compared to a standard braking system. Just think of the regenerative brakes as a system that recycles and converts kinetic energy into power for the electric vehicle’s battery.