Since the inception of the Toyota Prius, the concept of regenerative braking has become very common in hybrid cars. Today, it is found in hybrid cars, electric bicycles, electric skateboards, and electric scooters, as well.
Let’s talk about the working of the regenerative braking system.
While driving, cars have a lot of kinetic energy. When the brake is applied, the energy has to go somewhere. Back in the early days of the internal combustion engine, the energy would be lost in the form of wasted heat that used to be lost to the environment. Fortunately, humans have evolved and brought up a better way to take care of kinetic energy.
When brakes are applied in electric vehicles, the vehicle’s motor is used as a generator to convert the kinetic energy lost to the stored energy that is stored in the car’s battery. Even though the car decelerates, the energy isn’t lost. When you accelerate the car again, the stored energy produced by the regenerative braking is used instead of requiring the car to produce more energy.
An electric motor has copper wiring inside it, which produces an electromagnetic energy field, and torque is generated. The generator also has copper wiring.
The regenerative braking system works on a basic physics principle that says, “energy can’t be destroyed; it can only be transformed from one state to another.” The traditional braking system has brake pads that press against the wheel, resulting in friction production. Consequently, the car decelerates and eventually stops. Friction produces heat as an energy byproduct.
When kinetic energy transforms into heat, it’s considered a loss. It also decreases the brake pads’ efficiency, which is why modern vehicles feature brake cooling systems.
The regenerative braking system captures the heat and stores it into the electrical battery to later be used. In hybrid cars or electric cars, the vehicle’s motor plays a major role in storing the heat as electrical energy into the battery.
When the brake is applied, the braking system reverses the electric motor’s operation, resulting in countering the wheels’ direction. This electric motor operation change makes it work like a generator to get electrical energy from it, which goes to the battery and recharges it.
The regenerative braking system is highly efficient, and they have improved significantly over time. Certain systems have improved their efficiency to where they can capture and store up to 70% of the energy that would have been lost.
As far as the effectiveness of a regenerative braking system is concerned, it depends on the vehicle’s size, driving conditions, and terrain.
The effectiveness improves significantly when driving within the city traffic where brakes are applied frequently. The more the brakes are applied, the more the energy is captured and stored. Another big factor is the vehicle’s size. Bigger tires have more kinetic energy as compared to smaller tires.
The regenerative braking system is beneficial in the long run, no matter it’s efficiency and effectiveness it has proven itself.