TECH: Get Ready For One-Pedal Driving In Your Next Car

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Electric vehicles won’t require you to brake the way you have in the past.  Here’s why you’ll love it.


As vehicle electrification becomes more mainstream, one aspect of our driving will evolve. The brake pedal will become less and less a part of our normal driving. This is because the power pedal, formerly called the accelerator, will allow us to control the speed at which the vehicle it travelling. Here’s how.

Vehicles that use an electric motor as all or part of their drive system are more efficient. This is because when the vehicle is braking, or even coasting, the electric motor can be used to generate electricity. This “free” electricity can then be stored and re-used to power the vehicle. This is a big part of the reason that hybrid vehicles have such high fuel mileage ratings – 58 mpg in the case of the Prius Eco.

In cars like the Prius, BMW i3, and upcoming Chevy Bolt, when one lifts off the power pedal, the automatic regeneration of electricity begins. Because Toyota wanted the Prius, like all of its hybrids, to behave and feel like a typical gasoline-powered car, it does not feel that different from a regular car when one stops accelerating. As we transition to greater use of electrification, for example in the Chevy Volt, Cadillac ELR, Bolt, and other extended range electric vehicles, the regeneration is more important to the vehicle’s operation. Rather than downplay the feeling of regeneration, Chevy went the opposite way and is enhancing the feeling.


Take the upcoming Chevy Bolt. This new electric vehicle will use only electricity and has a whopping 238-mile range. Over its operating distance, Chevy wants the driver to recapture every possible electron when not accelerating.

To do this, the car needs to aggressively regenerate power. Engineers found that one-pedal driving added 5% to the vehicle’s range. Chevy has designed in a very powerful regeneration system that the driver will be in control of. It puts the strength of the regenerating force at the driver’s fingertips in the form of paddle shifters. There is no transmission in the Bolt to control, but by pulling a paddle, the driver can slow the car more rapidly while increasing regenerative braking.

The effect is sort of like downshifting a gas-powered car using the left paddle. GM has used this pull-to-regen paddle in its Cadillac ELR and Chevy Volt in the past (the image above is a Volt).

One pedal driving is easy. Within a few minutes of a drive in a car with the technology any driver can be comfortable using the power pedal to control the cars speed and decelleration. Credit GM for putting back a little of the driver involvement that has been in decline since the days of the stick shift.

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Main story image courtesy of BMW.