3 Things for Students in Auto Mechanic Training Programs to Know About Regenerative Braking

Regenerative brakes allow vehicles to harness energy and turn it into electricity
Regenerative brakes allow vehicles to harness energy and turn it into electricity

When it comes to vehicles and how they drive, the science of physics dictates. Physics laws state that energy cannot be destroyed. Thus, when driving a vehicle down the road and then braking, all that energy propelling the vehicle forward doesn’t disappear, it just turns into heat. This energy could be put to work in a much more efficient way instead of being wasted. That’s where regenerative braking comes in.

Regenerative braking is not possible in cars that are gasoline fueled, since the electrical energy that is produced has nowhere to go to. However, in hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs) the energy that gets displaced while slowing the vehicle is converted into electricity and returned to the battery pack.

If you’re interested in learning more about regenerative brakes, how they work, and why they are beneficial, read on!

1. Automotive Maintenance Technicians Know Regenerative Brakes Power the Engine

The purpose of regenerative braking is to capture the car’s kinetic energy and turn it into useable electricity. As mentioned before, this technology is only used in hybrid cars and EVs, because they operate off electricity.

When a driver presses down on the brake pedal of a regenerative braking system, the brake lets the engine know to start running backwards. The car’s battery stops providing driving power, and the kinetic energy the vehicle had is instead used to propel the engine backwards like a generator. During this time, the engine functions as an electricity generator and harnesses the kinetic energy (otherwise known as momentum) the car had while driving to power up the car’s battery. This process continues until the car’s momentum is gone and it comes to a stop. When the driver then steps on the gas pedal again, the engine returns to normal.

As students in an auto mechanic training program may know, regenerative brakes can sometimes not be powerful enough to halt a vehicle completely, especially when it’s going at high speeds. For these cases, vehicles also come equipped with traditional friction-based brakes to slow and stop the vehicle.

2. Automotive Maintenance Technicians Know the Brake Controller Protects the Engine

Since regenerative brakes may not be appropriate for stopping vehicles safely at every speed, there is a device called the brake controller that interprets which braking system should be utilized. Once the driver steps on the brake pedal, the controller senses how much force is being demanded to stop the vehicle. If the controller determines it’s too big of a job for the regenerative brakes, it makes the friction brakes kick in and take over. The controller also ensures the right amount of power is being fed into the batteries by the regenerative brakes, as too much energy at once could be harmful to the battery and cause it to malfunction.

3. Future Automotive Maintenance Technicians Know Regenerative Braking Is Greener

Regenerative braking is very efficient. As an automotive maintenance technician may know, in a typical car energy efficiency levels are only about 20 per cent, with 80 per cent of the car’s kinetic energy wasted and converted to heat. Regenerative braking is believed to be able to capture and redirect 50 per cent of the kinetic energy that is usually lost during the braking process.

This can help reduce fuel consumption levels in a hybrid by an impressive 10 to 25 per cent. In fact, many automotive professionals see regenerative braking technology as an active contributor towards creating a greener automotive industry.

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