How does it work and what are the benefits?

You may have already heard of the famous “one-pedal driving” which is dear to some EV drivers. Behind this term, we will detail what is hidden to help you fully understand this completely different and innovative way of driving in the automotive industry.

The pedals on the Volkswagen ID.4

For the vast majority of drivers, the electric car represents a radical change. In addition to the charging you have to get used to, the driving style is fundamentally different, with an emphasis on anticipation and control of consumption.

One of the electric motorist’s best allies is one-pedal driving, which we will return to in detail. We’ll first summarize what there is to know about regenerative braking before focusing on the benefits of one-pedal driving in terms of comfort and fuel economy.

Regenerative braking

You are probably aware that when you drive an electric car, you have to deal with regenerative braking. Something almost unprecedented in the world of thermal vehicles, it comes down to having a very powerful engine brake that makes it possible to brake the car significantly when the foot is no longer pressing the accelerator. The deceleration force is so high that the brake lights often come on.

In practice, an informed electric car driver therefore intelligently doses regenerative braking by partially lifting the foot from the accelerator to avoid frictional braking (conventional brakes).

The major advantage of regenerative braking is that it helps recharge the battery in the electric vehicle by turning the engine into a generator. We have summarized the operation in detail in this file if you want to understand this technology better.

Some cars allow the level of regenerative braking to be modulated, from coasting (no braking) to a complete stop without having to touch the brake pedal. This is called one-pedal driving, which is so popular among the majority of electric drivers.

A smoother and more comfortable ride

daily, single pedal driving eliminates the need to touch the brake pedal, except in case of emergency. Indeed, we’re not yet at the point where manufacturers can afford to simply abandon the brake pedal, but it’s clear that touching it could quickly become a very rare event.

When an electric car offers one-pedal driving, after a short adaptation period it is possible to adjust the release of the accelerator so that it stops completely without braking, and at the desired level. It is actually not enough to stop several meters before a stop sign for this to be satisfactory, but you really have to master the thing to be able to maneuver properly.

The Nissan Leaf’s e-Pedal system enables driving with one pedal.

However, regenerative braking reaches its limits when the vehicle reaches about a few kilometers per hour, and the brake pads squeeze the discs tightly together, allowing you to come to a complete stop. The difference is that this operation is automatic and controlled by the vehicle’s software rather than by the driver’s foot.

In addition, exercises at low speed to park can then be done with the foot on the accelerator rather than on the brake as is normally the case, which therefore requires changing one’s habits in order not to be surprised.

On electric vehicles that allow driving with one pedal, the rule is as follows: if the gas pedal is not depressed, the vehicle does not move, unlike thermal vehicles with automatic transmission.

The first situations where you have to maneuver to park can be disconcerting, but once you get used to it, you won’t want to go back, as the control of motor skills is so precise. In addition to this, consumption is optimized thanks to this driving mode, which is particularly suitable for urban environments, as we will see below.

Lower fuel consumption in urban areas

As we mentioned above, regenerative braking is the electric driver’s ally. In urban areas, it is also what makes it possible to achieve a very low consumption, unlike thermal vehicles, which are less comfortable in this exercise.

Specifically, by maximizing the regenerative braking to stop completely rather than stopping, this allows to recover up to 25% more autonomy over a WLTP cycle, which is far from insignificant. .

The consumption of the Seat Mii Electric // Source: Bob Jouy for Frandroid

Since urban environments are conducive to frequent speed changes, mastering single-pedal driving is an advantage that should not be overlooked. Among today’s vehicles that offer one-pedal driving, the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y stand out as good performers with excellent powertrain control and low-speed regenerative braking.

This is one of the reasons why Tesla ranks at the top of the ranking of electric cars with the lowest consumption, despite their often considerable weight compared to smaller city cars.

Conclusion

Driving with one pedal is one of the many benefits of electric cars that you need to understand when starting out. The comfort for the driver is unsurpassed and the gains in terms of consumption are significant.

One of the first cars with one-pedal driving was the Nissan Leaf 2 and its e-pedal mode, which captured many followers. Today, some electric cars use paddles on the steering wheel to adjust the intensity of regenerative braking (Hyundai Ioniq 5, Audi Q4 e-tron) and allow you to stop completely.

Although this requires a drastic transformation of the way you drive, relying heavily on anticipation rather than reaction, one-pedal driving is one of the “essentials” that an EV rider must master.

Be careful though in case of extreme cold or an overcharged battery: regenerative braking may be limitedand it is then necessary to find the brake pedal reflex to stop.

But this is less and less true as the manufacturers, like Tesla, manage to manage this situation in a software way, by automatically reinforcing the mechanical brake when the regenerative braking is weaker.

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