What is Regenerative Braking, and how does it work?

Technology is always marching forward when it comes to the automotive sector, bringing us something new, something better. In fact, cars are constantly being designed and developed to make them better in different ways. To the consumer, a direct benefit of such advancements usually means a more fuel-efficient car. Almost every new launch provides a more favourable answer to that all-important question- ‘kitna deti hai’? And with better milage often comes reduced emissions. One area that many manufacturers focus on to make cars more efficient is the braking system, especially in hybrid and electric vehicles.

To understand how this is achieved, you need to first understand how brakes work. 

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The brakes in a conventional car slow it down by applying “pads” to the discs or “shoes” to the drum. The car slows down and converts its kinetic energy (motion of the car) into heat energy. What if there was a way to harness the heat energy emitted from the brakes? This possibility gave automotive manufacturers an idea about how brakes can help make cars more efficient.

Regenerative braking: an introduction 

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A good solution didn’t present itself until hybrids (vehicles that use more than one type of power) came about, with in-wheel electric motors. The same motor that drives the wheel can also be used as a generator if it drove the motor. Hybrid vehicles already had a high-capacity battery present in them, which stored electricity, and this was connected to the vehicle’s motor. All that was needed was to allow the motor to send electricity back toward the battery when required.

So, how did this lead to regenerative braking?

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When a driver applies the brakes in a vehicle with regenerative brakes, the brake pads don’t immediately rub against the discs as conventional brakes do. Instead, the electric motor is engaged and uses the wheel to drive the motor and charge the battery. This work is usually done by the engine under the hood, with petrol or diesel power. Traditional brakes are present in hybrid vehicles to provide maximum braking power when required. However, during most normal braking conditions, the electric motor slows down the car. This energy is recovered as electric energy and used while accelerating again. This is how hybrids increase their efficiency by putting to good use the energy that would otherwise be wasted.

What makes this effective?

Studies have shown that regenerative braking can put 60-70 percent of the energy that goes into the brakes to good use. Under standard urban driving conditions, this can increase a vehicle’s efficiency by up to 20 percent! It might not sound like much at first glance, but let’s consider a vehicle with a tank capacity of 60 litres and a fuel efficiency of 10 kmpl. Improving efficiency by 20% would give you an extra 120km – the approximate distance from Mumbai to Pune – that you can get out of a tank of fuel. Of course, it is important to understand that this is theoretically speaking. Practically, this number could vary depending on various other factors.  

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However, proof that regenerative braking is one of the best ways to progress can be found in Formula 1 cars, which use this mechanism to maximise performance. When a car – whose sole reason for existence is speed – uses regenerative braking to increase performance, its use in day-to-day life becomes more pronounced. This is the philosophy that the MG Hector 2021 hybrid uses. Not only does regenerative braking make it faster than before, but by assisting conventional turbocharging systems, the E-boost technology in your new Hector offers more range and fuel efficient for an enhanced driving experience. Powered by a robust 48V Hybrid system, the new 7-seater Hector packs a better performance with increased fuel economy and reduced CO2 emissions. That way, you enjoy better drives that are greener too!