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What is regenerative braking?

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When you’re looking for electric or hybrid cars, you’re likely to encounter the words regenerative braking or ‘regen’ braking for short. But what is it exactly and how does a regenerative braking system in electric vehicles affect the overall driving experience?

In this guide, we answer the frequently asked questions about regenerative braking.

What is regenerative braking?

Regenerative braking is a feature in most electric and hybrid cars. This system captures the kinetic energy from braking or slowing down and converts it to electric power which charges the vehicle’s battery.

How does regenerative braking work?

Essentially, a regenerative braking system reverses the process used to propel the car forward. A regenerative braking system uses the kinetic energy from the wheels when stopping or slowing down and sends it to the electric motor. The electric motor becomes a generator and converts the kinetic energy into electric charge that is then sent to the battery. Your electric car or hybrid can use that saved energy whenever needed.

The regenerative braking system can be activated by either stepping on the brake or by taking your foot off the accelerator (in cases of one-pedal driving). The electric motor serves as an electric generator while slowing down the car as energy is consumed.

In some electric vehicles, there are buttons or paddles to control the strength of the regenerative braking. This will help you control the amount of energy you can get from the regenerative braking system. More energy is created with sudden stops compared to slowing down.

What is ‘one-pedal’ driving and how does it relate to regenerative braking?

One-pedal or single-pedal driving is when the regenerative braking system is at its highest level. This allows vehicles to come to a complete stop without pressing on the brake pedal. This means taking your foot off the accelerator can allow you to come to a full stop.

Pros and cons of regenerative braking

Just like any other innovative car feature, there are some benefits and drawbacks. Here are some things to keep in mind when using regenerative braking:

Pros of regenerative braking

  • More efficiency for your electric car’s battery and better fuel efficiency for hybrids. With regenerative braking, you can extend your battery’s range for a little bit when you stop or slow down your vehicle. This makes it more efficient and provides a better driving experience.
  • Save your braking components from additional wear and tear. Because the regenerative braking system does a lot of the work, the traditional hydraulic brakes in place won’t be used as much.
  • Less CO2 emissions and less pollution. Brake dust is a contributing factor to air pollution which is harmful, especially in places with poor air quality. With regenerative braking, there will be less brake dust lowering your vehicle’s overall emissions.

Cons of regenerative braking

  • Effectivity relies on speed. If you drive at slower speeds, the regenerative braking system may not produce as much energy to supply the battery with more charge.
  • Potential loss of stopping power at high speeds or quick stops. You may not get the same stopping power during abrupt stops compared to traditional brakes. For hybrid or electric vehicles equipped with regenerative braking, you may need to step on the brakes harder to get the effect you’re looking for.
  • Using the brake pedal may take some getting used to. For electric and hybrid vehicles with regenerative braking, using the brake pedal may feel a bit different. It may not respond as instantaneously or compress as smoothly as you’re used to.

What cars in the market have a regenerative braking system?

There are plenty of cars that use a regenerative braking system, the most notable of all being Tesla cars as the feature comes standard for all its models. Other electric and hybrid vehicles with regenerative braking systems include:

  • Audi e-tron
  • BMW i3
  • Chevrolet Bolt EV
  • Chevrolet Bolt EUV
  • Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
  • Ford Mustang Mach-E
  • Honda Insight
  • Hyundai Kona Electric
  • Jaguar I-Pace
  • Kia EV6
  • Kia Sorento Hybrid
  • Nissan Leaf
  • Toyota RAV4 Prime
  • Toyota Prius

Of course, the list above doesn’t include all the vehicles with regenerative braking. Take note, almost all hybrid and electric vehicles have some form of regenerative braking system in place. Talk to your car dealer or seller to learn more about a certain model’s specifications.

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