Electric Vehicles: What Is Regenerative Braking?

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Electric Cars: The Basics

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Regenerative Braking

Regenerative braking is a fundamental concept closely tied to both, battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). Regenerative braking has been around for a long time. In fact, conventional hybrid models, like the Toyota Prius HEV have been using regen for the past 20 years. 

Regenerative braking, sometimes referred to as brake recuperation, helps increase the efficiency of an electric vehicle by reducing wastage during the process of braking. It does this by capturing (recovering) the kinetic energy lost ‘displaced’ during braking. Yes, braking results in the reduction of the efficiency of a vehicle, as the energy used for acceleration is otherwise displaced as heat when brakes are applied.

In many conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) petrol and diesel vehicles, this displaced energy is not captured (recovered), thereby reducing the overall efficiency of the car. In a conventional vehicle, when the brakes are applied, the discs and brake pad create friction, which is released as heat into the environment. Bottom-line conventional braking is inefficient compared to regenerative braking.

Porsche Taycan electric car Ireland
The All-Electric Porsche Taycan Also Incorporates Regenerative Braking (credit: Porsche)

Most, if not all, electric vehicles from the luxurious Porsche Taycan EV to the best-selling Tesla Model 3 BEV, deploy regenerative braking to increase the zero-tailpipe emission electric range. When the brakes are applied in an EV, the electric motor uses the captured energy to recharge the onboard EV battery. Most EVs come with different levels of regenerative braking, and the driver can choose which regenerative braking profile best suits their circumstances. It is worth noting that the process of regenerative braking does not capture all the energy lost during braking! However, in most cases regen can harness between 60% to 80% of the kinetic energy displaced during braking.

For those new to regenerative braking, it may take some getting used to, when the foot is released from the accelerator pedal and the regenerative braking commences. Regenerative braking commences the moment you take your foot of the accelerator. In most cases the regen continues all the way down to 0 mph, however, some models may have a profile where there is some ‘coasting’.

For those seeking to increase the efficiency fo the electric car, we recommend choosing the maximum regenerative braking setting. The more aggressive the regen profile, the greater the gain in efficiency. For avoidance of any doubt, regen braking does not replace mechanical frictional brakes. Regen braking is not confined only to electric cars.  The concept has also been deployed in other forms of transportation that use electric energy.  For example, e-bikes, e-scooters etc.  

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Ashvin Suri

Ashvin has been involved with the renewables, energy efficiency and infrastructure sectors since 2006. He is passionate about the transition to a low-carbon economy and electric transportation. Ashvin commenced his career in 1994, working with US investment banks in New York. Post his MBA from the London Business School (1996-1998), he continued to work in investment banking at Flemings (London) and JPMorgan (London). His roles included corporate finance advisory, M&A and capital raising. He has been involved across diverse industry sectors, to include engineering, aerospace, oil & gas, airports and automotive across Asia and Europe. In 2010, he co-founded a solar development platform, for large scale ground and roof solar projects to include the UK, Italy, Germany and France. He has also advised on various renewable energy (wind and solar) utility scale projects working with global institutional investors and independent power producers (IPP’s) in the renewable energy sector. He has also advised in key international markets like India, to include advising the TVS Group, a multi-billion dollar industrial and automotive group in India. Ashvin has also advised Indian Energy, an IPP backed by Guggenheim (a US$ 165 billion fund). He has also advised AMIH, a US$ 2 billion, Singapore based group. Ashvin has also worked in the real estate and infrastructure sector, to including working with the Matrix Group (a US$ 4 billion property group in the UK) to launch one of the first few institutional real estate funds for the Indian real estate market. The fund was successfully launched with significant institutional support from the UK/ European markets. He has also advised on water infrastructure, to include advising a Swedish clean technology company in the water sector. He is also a member of the Forbury Investment Network advisory committee. He has also been involved with a number of early stage ventures.

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