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Fast and Agile Regenerative Braking is Redefining Vehicle Dynamics

Aug. 27, 2020
With interest in EVs on the upswing, regenerative braking systems have become part of the future mobility mix. It offers a unique value proposition to increase power density as well as help recuperate energy and boost available power from the battery.

Regenerative braking, or regen braking, has become an invaluable component in expanding the range of cars. Indeed, it’s the next big thing and is here to stay. In common parlance, the regenerative-braking system (RBS) is a developed and supplementary braking system that’s prevalently being used in electric/hybrid vehicles’ conventional braking systems. Advanced vehicles from forward-looking manufacturers such as Volkswagen, Tesla, Toyota, and Mercedes-Benz are extensively using regenerative braking technology.

While some conventional braking systems convert the vehicle’s kinetic energy into heat that goes waste, the regenerative system recovers waste energy and puts it to work again. With energy regeneration, EVs run on less electricity.

Regenerative-brake-intensive vehicle applications are poised to take off as the auto industry deliberates a future where EVs become prioritized. Leading auto manufacturers are contemplating a foray into EVs to provide a full range of electric-vehicle configuration.

Regenerative-braking systems help address range issues by returning power to the battery during braking to bolster both efficiency and range. These systems tend to boost battery economy; are ideal for activities with frequent stop-and-go; reduce energy consumption; and complement maximum efficiency given that the electric motor has maximum torque at zero rpm. And OEMs are coming up with RBSs to recuperate the kinetic energy dissipated.

A palpable trend for electrification of vehicles and more emission targets has led to regen braking’s popularity. Electrification has leveraged a range of developments, including fuel efficiency, safety, anti-lock braking, electronic stability control, and regenerative braking. All of these are being gradually implemented by automotive industry.

The specter of long-term viability has taken a backseat and posed questions for OEMs. For instance, what approach will help stakeholders excel in today’s automotive regenerative-braking industry? Regenerative braking has been helping to address the challenges by returning to the battery/motor during braking to boost efficiency and range.

When it comes to stop-and-go traffic, regenerative braking tends to provide most of the braking force. Subsequently, it leads to more fuel-efficient braking and better fuel consumption. Furthermore, regenerative braking boosts fuel consumption at higher speeds with less stopping involved.

Aimed at offsetting the low-range number attributed to EVs, regenerative braking is believed to extend electric vehicle ranges by around 10%-25%.

Regenerative-braking technologies are expected to be the linchpin for Europe to help them halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and reach net-zero carbon by 2050. With the improvement of around 40% fuel efficiency in hybrid cars, OEMs look no further than regenerative braking. To help in the effort, OEMs have done away with the need for heavy flywheels that add extra weight to the total weight of the vehicle.

Regenerative braking acts as a silver bullet to prevent the vehicle’s kinetic energy from getting wasted. In addition to boosting range and saving energy, regenerative braking also helps in the control of the braking operations.

Supercapacitor Technology Speeds up RBS

Supercap technologies are widely being used in a regenerative braking test rig to exploit the challenges and opportunities of implementing supercapacitors. They are highly sought after due to their tremendous power density and cycling characteristics. There’s been a notable uptick in the use of electric propulsion in road transport application on the heels of adoption of battery-electric, internal-combustion-engine hybrid, and fuel-cell vehicles in recent years.

Adding a supercapacitor in the automotive mix has proved effective, as it can charge and discharge for a wealth of cycles without any performance degradation. Also known as double-layer capacitors and ultra-capacitors, supercapacitors have a quick response that helps in capturing the energy peaks efficiently during regenerative-braking operation.

Supercapacitors are alleged to have the capacity of storing 20-fold more energy vis-à-vis electrolytic capacitors. OEMs are buoyed by the fact that ultra-capacitors have a good transient response, help in expanding the range of the vehicle, and underpin sudden acceleration with the assistance of the boost circuit.

There’s no denying that supercapacitors have tremendous power densities, are able to absorb the power generated at the time of braking, and maintain excellent cycling properties. They will continue to gain interest in myriad applications such as transportation. Currently, a number of R&D activities are focusing on new electrode materials, configuration, electrolyte media, and packaging of the supercapacitor systems.

Electric vehicles, including battery electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), are set to be the major part of the mainstream global automotive regenerative-braking industry.

BEVs Will See Major Investment

Even though BEVs generate zero air pollution, low driving range has been problematic. In a stark contrast to HEVs, BEVs have become an effective vehicle to curb pollution because they run entirely on an electric motor and battery.

A slew of engineering colleges and other institutions have started academic programs and laboratories targeted at advanced BEV technologies. Selecting an ideal optimal brake control RBS complements energy consumption, fuel consumption, and wear reduction. Several research studies have shifted their focus on optimal driving strategy (ODS) during braking, representing a set of optimal decelerations.

Automotive regenerative braking isn’t perfect—it tends to perform effectively merely up to certain speeds, preferably in the stop-and-go driving conditions. Moreover, the braking is slower when compared to conventional braking and it isn’t that efficient at lower speeds.

Smart RBS Comes to the Fore

In a bid to offset the woes in regenerative braking systems, the smart RBS has come to the fore. It’s worth mentioning that regeneration torque of the EVs is controlled by the smart RBS automatically braking the vehicle by reorganizing the deceleration conditions.

A smart RBS is an advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) application that uses forecasting information on braking situations. The autonomous braking system boosts energy efficiency and can offer driver convenience by derailing the frequent braking of the brake pedaling. OEMs are expected to infuse funds in next-gen smart RBSs.

Exploiting Every Possible Opportunity

Forward-looking companies are looking to streamline design of regenerative brakes that have virtually no downsides. In October 2018, Tesla announced the improvement in regenerative braking on Model 3, underpinned by over-the-air software update.

Expecting the regen strength to get stronger on future dual-motor versions of the Model 3, Tesla claims the development to have improved the driving experience and increased the amount of energy that’s actively returned to the battery when slowing down.

As the auto industry transcends toward all-electric vehicles, GM is considering to spend $20 billion on new electric and autonomous vehicles through 2025, topping Tesla with the rollout of 11 new all-electric vehicles. The 110-year-old auto manufacturer is also contemplating the launch of at least 20 new models by 2023.

Companies are vying to exploit every possible aspect of EV ecosystem with regenerative braking as they look to build a zero-emission world. Ford Mustang unveiled its Mach-E EV model that includes a setting for maximum regenerative braking. The setting is believed to derail the EV to stop during braking, with one-pedal driving bolstering range between charges.

Prominent automakers are whetting the consumers’ appetite for EV. A quantum leap in automotive regenerative braking industry is being witnessed as the smart RBS has become the “next big thing.” Perceptions of the functionality, practicality, and the upside of the RBS remain mixed with range, cost, and savings. To gain a hold in the present business ambience, OEMs are expected to adopt strategies to reap dividends of the evolving regenerative-braking industry.

Global Market Insights Inc. has a market report dedicated to automotive regenerative braking, available at: https://www.gminsights.com/industry-analysis/automotive-regenerative-braking-market.

Sunil Kumar Jha is a Research Content Developer at Global Market Insights (GMI).

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