Understanding Regenerative Braking Systems

“An object in motion tends to stay in motion, while an object at rest tends to stay at rest”

Physics are (quite literally) what makes our world go round, and contrary to what science fiction would have us believe, we’ve yet to come up with ways around these universal laws. Sure, we have scientists working round-the-clock trying to come up with ways to bend these rules as much as possible – but so far we haven’t been able to crack the code.

What we have been able to do, however, is find ways to make physics work for us. We leverage these universal laws with intelligently designed systems that help increase efficiency in a variety of different ways.

Regenerative braking technology is just one of the most recent ways that we’ve been able to harness physics and the power of energy transfer. This gives us the ability to improve electronic car technology and maybe crack the code as far as efficient alternative energy vehicles are concerned.

Here’s a little bit about regenerative braking systems and everything they bring to the table.

Regenerative braking saves wasted friction heat

Brake rotors get so hot that they glow. All of that heat is wasted energy.

Breaking wastes a tremendous amount of energy

As we mentioned above, Objects in motion want to remain in motion. This is why traditional breaking – applying the brakes and slowing down (or stopping) your car with no transfer of energy – is so incredibly wasteful.

Getting your vehicle up to speed and then maintaining that speed requires a tremendous boost of energy to get the job done. Every time you hit your brakes (even just tapping them) you end up wasting a lot of the energy that was built up. The energy itself is transferred to your brake pads and then burned out as heat through friction. You then have to expend a tremendous amount of energy to get yourself back up to speed again.

This is why stop and go traffic is so incredibly inefficient, and why “city” mileage is always going to be a lot lower than “highway” mileage.

Regenerative braking eliminates a significant amount of that waste and turns it into useful energy

Regenerative braking systems (especially those that are hooked up to hybrid or 100% electric vehicles) operate exactly the same as traditional brakes. Both are designed to slow or stop your vehicle with next to no effort on your behalf whatsoever. But they couldn’t be more different when it comes to how they change, modify, or utilize the energy that you build up as you propel your vehicle down the road.

Unlike traditional braking systems that waste all of the energy that you used to get your vehicle from 0 to 60 (and beyond), regenerative brakes transfer a considerable amount of that energy. They do this through the use of a dynamo more often than not. This is to supply usable energy to the electronic batteries that are included in your hybrid or electric car.

Though the technology is still quite young today, regenerative braking systems have contributed greatly to improving the overall efficiency of hybrid and electric cars, quite literally turning the industry on its head.

Previously, these vehicles had to rely on inefficient charging stations and even more inefficient battery technology to supply the juice necessary for cruising down the road at top speed. Nothing could be further from the truth thanks to regenerative braking.

The future of regenerative braking systems

As mentioned above, today’s regenerative brakes are a lot less effective or as efficient as they probably could be (probably should be), but that’s to be expected when you’re talking about such a brand-new technology.

Battery technology used in electronic vehicles and hybrid cars also needs to become more efficient so that regenerative brakes can quickly replenish any energy that was already dispelled, and engineers are working double overtime across the globe to improve these two technologies as much as possible.

The time frame really shouldn’t be all that long until we start to see viable 100% electric vehicles like the Tesla Model S becoming the norm, especially if regenerative braking systems continue to get better and better as time goes on. The future of the other mobile industry (and our planets, really) depends in large part upon us getting this technology right sooner rather than later.

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