First Drive: Rav4 EV Prototype Embodies Tesla Spirit

By · April 07, 2011

Toyota RAV4 EV

Photos: Copyright Brad Berman/PluginCars.com. All rights reserved.

Unlike a number of electric car start-ups denying access to pre-production models, Toyota this week allowed a few dozen journalists to drive the current iteration of its upcoming RAV4 EV all-electric SUV. I had about 20 minutes behind the wheel, with another 40 minutes or so as a passenger. All signs indicate that Toyota and Tesla are on the way to producing the big boy of the new electric vehicle era.

But like those medication television commercials that use more airtime to list side effects than benefits, my notes are dominated by caveats. The current version is not even version 1.0. “This is a sophisticated proof of concept,” Sheldon Brown, executive project manager for RAV4 EV, told me.

The Toy-Tes team has built about 30 of these so-called “Phase Zero” models purely as a way to target and validate goals for the first real prototype models that are already up and running. What do we know about the targets? In 2012, the dynamic duo will make and sell an all-electric version that is almost identical in appearance to the V6 gas version of the RAV4, offering the same amount of functionality and acceleration. That means zero-to-60 performance in 9 seconds. The goal for driving range is 100 miles, and the Phase Zero version is indeed consistently achieving 96 miles in real-world testing, according to Toyota. That means a battery pack with 37 kWh of usable energy, and a 150-horsepower electric motor (with a little more than 100 kW of power at peak).

Toyota RAV4 EV

The good news is that this motor and large battery very successfully throw around the considerable weight of the RAV4 platform. Brown said the scales are now tipping to about 3,900 pounds, adding about a quarter-ton or more to the already hefty gas version. Do the math to discover SUV-caliber efficiency of 2.6 miles per kWh, well below the rule-of-thumb 4 miles per kWh for electric cars. Even aerodynamic tweaks to the front and rear fascia, wheel wells and underbelly—some already implemented and more planned—are not going to add more than a fraction of efficiency. Those aero changes are the only slight changes in visual appearance from the conventional RAV4.

The anti-EV crowd will probably have a field day showing how a RAV4 EV powered in a coal-intensive region is a gazillion times less green than buying a reasonably sized gas-powered compact—but go with it, folks. This is a big and heavy vehicle. It’s the upper limit of EV size on a consumer product—and I found it a blast to pilot such a hulk on the free-flowing state roads around La Jolla, Calif.

Toyota RAV4 EV

How many electric vehicles provide this amount of utility and cargo room?

Step into the accelerator and the wheels squeal. (No ABS or traction control on this prototype.) At one point, I had the RAV4 EV zooming past 90 mph, with room left between the accelerator and the floor. As I was driving, I imagined a Tesla Roadster motor and battery system purring away, deep inside the body of a bloated crossover SUV. This model is literally Tesla’s system transplanted into the RAV4 platform.

Handling, steering and cornering—not yet calibrated for the heavy battery pack and new cross members—already has a solid and planted feel. According to Brown, the handling of the production EV will beat out the gas version.

What Grabs You

RAV4 EV gear selection />

Tesla-style gear selection, for now.

There’s more good news: the regenerative braking is as aggressive as any I’ve experienced. Let off the go-pedal while traveling at a clip of 40 mph or so, and you’re pulled down to about 5 mph in a matter of seconds. That’s without any assistance from the current brake pedal that is currently exclusively a conventional friction brake. The engineers have the regen cranked up to the max, to see the highest possible level of available regenerative power—from which to later dial down. When I pulled my foot off the pedal at about 30 mph, the power meter pegged for a few seconds at 40 kW flowing back to the battery pack. (It’s fun to drive with just one pedal, playing a game of finding the right time pull off the accelerator to decel/coast toward a red light.)

Now the bad news: Don’t expect that amount of regen or acceleration on the production version. “We’re going to have a much more sophisticated, engineered, and tailored system in place,” Brown said. I suspect that means tuning out the Tesla-ness, and dialing up Toyota’s signature Middle America smooth and steady vehicle personality. Brown and other engineers were already talking about modeling the “invisible to the driver” brake/regen system from the Toyota Prius. That would mean a smidgen of grab when you start coasting, and the rest during the first degrees of pressing on the brake pedal until you go further down into the friction brakes.

Most experienced EV drivers prefer more grab, and perhaps Toyesla engineers will be forced to dial it up more than the Prius, in order to extend range. Brown told me that the regen calibration choices could mean between 10 and 30 percent more or less overall range. He also said to expect a couple of different modes—like econ or power—to give drivers some control over the matter.

Toyota RAV4 EV

So, expect the brake feel and the launching off the line to become more suited to a five-door-SUV from Toyota, rather than a two-door Roadster with Musk-like bravado.

For now, the Phase Zero uses Tesla’s existing battery pack, an off-the-shelf motor, and an electrical system that also powers the vehicle accessories, like climate control. The production version will have a customized new battery pack. Curb height is the same as the V6 RAV4 although running clearance will drop 15 mm to make room for batteries (and improved aerodynamics). The production model will be front-wheel-drive, but the team is already starting to consider all-wheel-drive in the future.

Toyota RAV4 EV

Economics

Now the really bad news. This is going to be one pricey SUV. It’s a wild guess but my gut says around $50,000 range. In other words, the RAV4 EV price could be more than $20,000 above the V6 version, which has an MSRP that tops out at $28,335. The electric RAV will probably compete on price with the Tesla Model S. Such an apples-and-oranges decision pits a sleek Maserati-like full-size sedan with 150+ miles of range—and tons of sex appeal—against the full functionality of an SUV with the generic crossover styling. (Of course, the Model S is still theory right now, and the RAV4 EV is already becoming a tangible reality.)

Why do I think Toyota will price the RAV4 EV so high? First of all, it’s a huge and expensive battery pack. Second, Toyota corporate strategy—if I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a 1,000 times—is that small-battery vehicles (like conventional hybrids or the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid) make the most sense. Pricing a big-battery-big-ass vehicle like the RAV4 EV at a competitive priced-to-sell level would run counter to Toyota doctrine. (Full disclosure: I think Toyota is bang-on right that small-battery hybrids, with and without plugs, will be the long-term market winner.)

Toyota RAV4 EV

We have about 18 months to find out how Toyota and Tesla will price the RAV4 EV. In the meantime, the two companies deserve a big pat on the back for moving so fast on such a compelling vision of what a 2012 electric SUV could be. I can’t wait to drive the Phase One version.

Comments

· · 3 years ago

G'Day Brad,

"There’s more good news: the regenerative braking is as aggressive as any I’ve experienced. Let off the go-pedal while traveling at a clip of 40 mph or so, and you’re pulled down to about 5 mph in a matter of seconds."

I think this is bad news -- coasting is a more efficient method of using the invested kinetic energy of the moving vehicle. In my opinion, all the regenerative braking should be on the brake pedal; hence the name.

Neil

· · 3 years ago

@NeilBlanchard
How many times to how many people have to tell you that you can coast just fine if there is aggressive regenerative braking on the go pedal?
You're right that coasting to a stop wastes less energy than regenerative braking or friction braking. Unfortunately, however, you and I are not the only people on the road, therefore we must occasionally stop faster than coasting will allow us to. When this happens, we must apply brakes or we'll end up stopping in an undesirable manner, either in someone else's trunk or t-boning them in an intersection.
It is easy to control whether your are coasting or braking by simply adjusting how you push on the go-pedal.
This means that you can easily coast (clearly the most efficient) but when you don't need to stop quickly but coasting isn't sufficient, you simply let off of the go-pedal. When you really need to stop quickly, you can use the friction brake, and when it is urgent, you mash the friction brakes to activate the ABS.
There's a braking regimen for all occasions and aggressive regen allows one to easily select the one needed by the situation without having to think about it.

· Tim (not verified) · 3 years ago

Neil, I hear what you're saying, but I think aggressive regen in the way to go. As long as the operator understands how to properly use it and isn't constantly backing off the "go-pedal" as ex-EV1 driver put it, I think it will be the most efficient way to employ it.

I have driven EV's with right pedal regen and I think I like that set up better than when the regen in on the brake pedal.

· dpeilow (not verified) · 3 years ago

It's a bit of a porker. The old one got the same range from 27 kWh.

By the way, Model S is more than just theory - there are as many prototypes of it running.

· Nick From Montreal (not verified) · 3 years ago

Even at 50K, I would definitely jump on this. That would be 42,500$ with the US/Canada EV tax break. A vehicle that can move a whole family for 100 miles? Sign me in.

They should have the "Tesla Limited Edition" with a bigger battery and more aggressive regen.

· · 3 years ago

I agree on the regen comments. Sure, coasting is better in theory, but living in Los Angeles there are very few opportunities to coast, even on the freeway. Further, I think it is difficult to determine with the Volt when you are using pure regen vs. regen/brake when you depress the brake pedal.

If the Rav4 really comes in at around $50k it will make the Volt and Leaf look much more appealing (especially if Chevy can drop the Volt's price tag next year).

· Travisty (not verified) · 3 years ago

If you really care about coasting you can always put the care into neutral. I've tried it a few times but don't see any benefit - I've only done it if the battery is full

· JJ from Canada (not verified) · 3 years ago

Wow wow wow. This is my dream EV !
Lot's of room at the back for tools boxes.
I gotta start saving for this one !

· REinCARnate (not verified) · 3 years ago

It would be great if you could update this article to compare to the original RAV4 EV. I believe it got the same range, or even better, but think it was about 1000lbs less weight too. Kind of odd that with a much better chemistry, they've opted to create a heavier and less efficient vehicle than one they ALREADY created about a decade ago with the "lesser" NiMH chemistry. If they took the original specs, perhaps they could have shot for 150 miles per charge.

· · 3 years ago

Is this current version of the RAV4 bigger than the 2002 model? Just wondering why it's about 500lbs heavier than the old RAV4 EV. The pack is bigger but the Li ion batteries are considerably lighter than the NiMH so I'm guessing it to be about a wash there. That's a lot of extra weight, where did it come from?

@Neil: I'm also in the favor of right pedal controlled regen. After driving the MINI-E (which has just bout the strongest regen on any EV ever made) I can't imagine switching. I have driven cars with brake controlled regen so it's not like I haven't had the opportunity to try it the other way.
Once you drive a car with right pedal regen for a couple days, you can easily control the regen so it's not cutting into your efficiency. As ex pointed out it's not difficult to drive and even coast with it all in the right pedal. You quickly get accustomed to how to back off the accelerator only when you need to slow down.
I can see how someone that hasn't had enough time to drive one would fell that way though, the first time you get behind the wheel of a car with strong regen it feel unnatural and makes you wonder if it's hurting your efficiency by holding the car back all the time, but once you've had some practice, it's very simple.

· · 3 years ago

Nice point...the original Rav4 EV weighed 3,440lbs (vs.3,900lbs) and 27 kWh (vs. at least 37kWh) and both have about the same range. Clearly that extra 500lbs makes a huge difference.

"Do the math to discover SUV-caliber efficiency of 2.6 miles per kWh, well below the rule-of-thumb 4 miles per kWh for electric cars" Is this rule-of-thumb true? I am only getting about 3.3 miles per kWh with my Volt (If my math is correct). Seems like many that are driving the Leaf barely average around 4.

· · 3 years ago

One more interesting comparison point, the Volt is about 3,781 lbs, which is fairly close to the new Rav4. Maybe the difference is mostly tires/aerodynamics?

· · 3 years ago

I'm not sure how to calculate the miles/kwh until we know what fraction of the 37 kwh battery is available for use. And in comparisons to EPA Volt and LEAF numbers, remember that charging losses are included in the EPA numbers.

40 kw regen is a LOT, about twice what my Prius can take in. Since the SUV weighs 40% more than my car, that is a good thing to avoid horrendous city fuel economy results.

· REinCARnate (not verified) · 3 years ago

It's just funny how manufacturers are pretending like they haven't been here before. Does anyone remember the EV1? Haha. There are no new vehicle engineering problems here. Only new battery chemistry. The drivetrain, while new to the RAV4, is well understood.

In the end, it's a matter of design choice. I think in modern cars, they add a lot of weight in the form of noise dampening material in panels. My 1996 Toyota Corolla sedan which is considered to be a fuel efficient car @ 30mph weighs around ~2300lbs, while my conversion project donor car, a 1969 Datsun mini-truck (designed to carry 1 ton payload) weighs only ~2100lbs. The difference is the "feel" of the car, which equates to more weight.

We've become spoiled with creature comforts and the "luxury feel" of modern vehicles, so it's no wonder auto manufacturers cater to those values...ultimately it's about the bottom line for them and they can't charge as much if it feels like a 1970s vehicle in 2010. Sad, but true. The consumer has a responsibility to show that they value efficiency over fluff and unnecessary features that add complexity and energy cost to a vehicle.

· REinCARnate (not verified) · 3 years ago

Also, I think the 4 miles per kWh is a target value for commuter EVs. Some EVs are better, and others are worse. Keep in mind that not all vehicles are designed for the same purpose.

I think the logic behind 4 miles/kWh is more a numbers game than anything else. Most packs for EVs are between 20-30kWh, and you are supposed to design to 80% depth of discharge (DOD) or less, so you really only have about 16-24kWh useable energy before wanting to recharge. To make a vehicle practical for mass consumerism, you must achieve at least 60 miles per charge but as much as 100. So, it's just a math problem:
16kWh * 4 miles/kWh = 64 miles range
24kWh * 4 miles/kWh = 96 miles range

The RAV4 is more energy hungry which is why they're putting in a larger pack (37kWh). The Tesla, for reference, has something like 50kWh pack and a darn good miles per kWh rating, so that it can achieve 240 miles per charge.

· · 3 years ago

The recently announced SIM LEI car is capable of 135Wh/mile or 7.4 miles per kWh. The FVT eVaro uses about 155 wH/mile or about 6.4 miles per kWh. I'm hoping my CarBEN EV open source design car will use about 100wH/mile at 55-60mph.

http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/2011/03/carben-ev-open-source-project-...

The Leaf's pack is good for 95% DOD. And we'll see more numbers on the DBM Energy battery soon, hopefully.

By the way, the FVT eVaro does it's regen only on the brake pedal, and uses regen for all of it's active braking -- 60-0mph is just 130 feet. It has *inboard* front disks, and the friction brakes are only needed in emergencies, or to hold the car still.

Neil

· JJJJJJ (not verified) · 3 years ago

Ignorant question here...

Arent electric engines smaller than ICE ones? If so, why is the front end of the electric RAV just as big as the gas one?

The batteries are on the bottom right? So whats using all that space?

Cant they cut off 3 inches and make urban parking easier?

· JJ - from Canada (not verified) · 3 years ago

JJJJJJ: I guess if there's enough room left over in the front end,
they could put the spare tire there to give us more room in the cargo area. :-)

I like the door opening horizontally. No worry about the door falling on my head, but on the other hand an above opening door is handy when it's raining.

---------------------

Does anyone know why the gage KW goes down to 40 kw and up to 160 Kw on the dash?
(I still have a lot to learn)

---------------------

I wish Darell would comment on this article since he's driving the original RAV-EV.
Toyota should get him to test the new one for comparison purposes.

· · 3 years ago

@JJJJJJ,
I suspect that Toyota doesn't have the stomach to completely redesign the RAV4 (and its assembly line) as an EV initially. That front space is probably still part of the crumple zone and aerodynamic design of the vehicle, even if it doesn't contain much of the power train. Maybe, like Tesla's Model S, they'll put a storage area (trunk) in any wasted interior space in front.
Sorry, but the RAV4EV has grown to fill the wants of Americans to have big vehicles to park in big parking lots. I assume that manufacturers will eventually rise to the occasion and build micro-vans that are more friendly to European population densities.

@JJ
It goes down to negative 40 and up to 160 kW. I assume implies that it can provide up to -40 kW of regenerative braking and up to +160 kW of motor power.

@NeilBlanchard
Folks who want to optimized their fuel economy can just try to keep the power at zero in order to coast or let off of the go-pedal for negative power which indicates that regenerative braking is happening.

· · 3 years ago

@Neil: Have you ever driven a Prius ? Coasting requires pressure on the go pedal. Smaller pressures but still > nothing is regen territory. I don't think I have read anybody complain about the set-up, and that is saying something. At least to me it makes perfect sense that the car slows down even with slight go-pedal pressure. I think my brain translates the regen as road friction.

Honestly though, I don't really care if the regen starts somewhere on the go-pedal scale or only when the brake is depressed. My job is to not waste kinetic energy, or if needed to bleed off kinetic energy slowly. The driver gets used to how quickly the car slows down not only in the no-pedal state but more importantly by terrain and speed. The regen part is the least complicated part of the gestalt needed for efficient energy use.

· Ben (not verified) · 3 years ago

If the aggressive regenerative braking is anything like my Prius in the "B" gear, I hate it.

I find myself using more gas than normal.

· Fasst27 (not verified) · 3 years ago

Sorry, but the concept of 100 miles on a $50k car simply will NOT work!

The price makes this car a worthless investment. Besides, the RAV4 is a production vehicle that starts at $22k. Remove cost of the ICE powertrain (engine+transmission) - say $6K = $16K. So, that means that the EV system costs around $34K? Nissan has the Leaf at $32K. I don't see any significant R&D costs. Toyota just digs in the part bin (sans Tesla parts). So, where do they pull out these numbers? I understand the product cannibalism concept, but $50K for a Rav4? I'd kick the sales strategy team's rear. This is BS.

Aside from technical properties, my way of evaluating a concept car is asking: Would a kid put up a poster of that car? Time to inspire people. Come on Tesla, time to whip out the 160, 230 and 300 mile range Model S. We're waiting.

· Fasst27 (not verified) · 3 years ago

I should be more specific: 100 miles on a $50K [average looking] car will not work, while I believe the Model S is nicely priced to take on some higher end luxury vehicles (i.e. Mercedes, BMW, Lexus, Audi).

I also realize that $50k is an guess at this point. I do hope Toyota will be serious and price the RAV4 EV with competitive numbers (~$30K).

· Guspaz (not verified) · 3 years ago

Sadly, the range is still too low and the price is still too high. I'm not sure that battery technology is yet at a point that makes EVs a complete practical replacement.

· MikeK (not verified) · 3 years ago

In what way is the Model S any less of a reality than this car? There are "Alpha" prototypes driving around in the Bay Area, and they're not just using Roadster batteries and motors grafted onto a different chassis.

I am disappointed, as a driver of the original RAV4-EV, that they've made a car that's heavier and less efficient than the one I drove to work today.

· · 3 years ago

@Mike
Don't forget that the ICE RAV4 has grown extensively from where it was back in 1999. There have also been a lot of new safety requirements added as well.

· · 3 years ago

I'll jump on Neil along with everyone else, as I have on his blog. Regen on the A pedal still allows coasting and highly efficient driving. Your bias for brake only regen is not reflected by the majority of us who drive EV's with regen on the A pedal. Single pedal driving is quite enjoyable and there is no loss in efficiency.

· · 3 years ago

I'll also say that the $50K price estimate doesn't make any sense. Who would pay that for a 2 wheel drive RAV when the same money gets you a longer range upscale sedan in the Model S. I'd say $45K max and hopefully closer to $39,999 if they actually want to sell it.

· · 3 years ago

Ah, I just haven't had the time to keep up!

I've been following this car since the agreement between Toy and Tes was first announced. While I'm thrilled that Brad got to drive one, there isn't a single surprise in this report. The car is big and heavy, and offers few advantages that *should* come along with big and heavy. You can't even stand a bicycle up in this thing that is *significantly* bigger than my 2002 Rav4EV (that is really a 1996 body) - and I can stand my bike up in my little, relatively light car!

For everybody who says this car is too big and heavy (me) there are probably two people who regularly say that they won't buy an EV unless they're big and heavy. You know - "safe." So here we are, America. You make a big heavy car that pushes lots of air, and suddenly you need a big, heavy EXPENSIVE battery to push it down the road. Great if you want to spend the money and resources. Not so great if we want mass adoption of energy-saving technology.

My last GM EV went well over 100 miles on a charge. GM officials stated too many times to count that 100 miles was not enough for American drivers. The latest version (the Volt) boasts that 40 miles of EV range is enough for most commuters to never need the gas engine. Then we move over to Toyota... well, you get the picture. My car was developed for the 1996 model year. 120 miles of range is the official word. I've done 130 as my best. 100 was easy, and that's the range I usually state for my car. Now, with all new technology, we can push this beast the same number of miles in 2011? And of course for more money than the $42,000 (non-subsidized) pricetag of my car. There's no question that the new car will have much higher performance and level of refinement. But at what point to we realize that we have to start making cars for transportation, and not extensions of our living rooms?

· · 3 years ago

And I can't let the single-pedal driving thing alone....

Yes, in a perfect world, coasting to slow down is the idea. And as others have said - we aren't allowed that luxury very often in the real world. I've driven lots of cars... many of the EVs. There is nothing more convenient, and nothing more efficient than single-pedal driving.

· JJJJJJ (not verified) · 3 years ago

darelldd, it's because of the hp marketing trap.

If a company develops an engine 10% more efficient, do they:
a) Increase mileage by 10%
b) Increase hp by 10%

The sad part is, in the US, it's ALWAYS the hp, unless there's a federal mandate to meet.

Im guessing what Toyota said is "how big, heavy and powerful can we make this while staying at 100miles?"
instead of
"how much can we cut to get the highest mileage possible?"

The fiat 500 is another ICE example.

It gets 57mpg or so in europe.
It comes to america, they increase hp by 80%, and we get 35mpg.

I hear people say that the consumer is the one demanding big and heavy. But are we? Or are we just not being given a choice?

If the marketing all says "you need more horsepower" then yes, the consumer will say "I guess I do".

· · 3 years ago

@JJJJJ
One great thing about EVs is that the best way to increase the motor efficiency is to increase it's hp. Unlike with ICE, larger motors are actually more efficient than smaller ones. Of course, if you use that extra hp, you're going to be operating less efficiently but, if you drive calmly, you'll actually use less energy in the EV with more hp than one with less hp.
Additional weight and drag are what causes the new RAV4EV to get worse fuel economy than the old one, not more horsepower.

· · 3 years ago

"Yes, in a perfect world, coasting to slow down is the idea."

Just so it's very clear, you can still coast with regen on the A pedal. If you can't then the regen isn't mapped properly and you need a larger neutral pedal zone.

· · 3 years ago

@JRP3 · "Just so it's very clear, you can still coast with regen on the A pedal. If you can't then the regen isn't mapped properly and you need a larger neutral pedal zone."

If you have a larger neutral pedal zone you get a nonlinear accelerator pedal response. I won't like it.

There are two ways to do this regen thing. It is a personal choice rather than some immutable physical law as to which one is better.

· · 3 years ago

@EVnow -

It is a personal choice - but the choice can't really be made until it is experienced. In general (and overwhelmingly), those who have used regen in the A pedal (and I love that label) prefer it. Those who have not used it prefer the status quo. Go figure.

There is no magic "if you cost you will be more efficient" scenario. As a general rule, the slower you go in any vehicle (and EVs especially) the less energy you use. If you should be going slower, and you back off the A pedal, and slow to a more conservative speed, you will be driving more efficiently.

This whole A pedal discussion is a bit comical at this point. It CAN be more efficient if used properly - and those who have used it overwhelmingly prefer it. I'm sure there will be a small subset of drivers who wish to stick with the way things have always been - but really, the discussion can't happen until more people have experience with it.

· · 3 years ago

@darell "There is no magic "if you cost you will be more efficient" scenario. "

No magic - just good old thermodynamics. Round trip to battery will be < 100% efficient, so coasting is better. Ofcourse regen is better than friction braking.

A highly self selected small set of users is a poor representative sample of general population. So, I'll reserve my judgment as to which will be more popular.

· · 3 years ago

@EVNow,
I'm not talking about a huge neutral zone, just enough so that you can easily find it and hold it when you want. It really feels quite natural. Certainly some people will have different preferences but the idea that you can't coast and drive efficiently with A pedal regen is a false concept I'm trying to dispel.

· · 3 years ago

Spot on JRP3,
My Prius MPG in mile climate city driving is around 70 mpg. Regen in the A pedal does not bother me at all. Mostly I peer at the SG to verify I am above 1600 rpm when the ICE is engaged, although I occasionally catch the ICE on when I thought it off. These two conditions of course do not apply to EV only driving so I see no problem at all.

· JJJJJJ (not verified) · 3 years ago

ex-EV1 driver, right, which is why it's important to set the variable and the constant.

It seems like automakers have decided to make the range 100 miles and use the rest for more bulk and such.

"Hey guys, we can get 115miles ...or we can add some useless stuff and get 100 miles!"
"100!"

· · 3 years ago

I am always amazed at the passionate opinions that come out when A pedal regen is discussed. The problem is that not all brake systems are alike and the decision to go with heavy A pedal regen is not made for the customer but because of the type of brake system.
There are 2 main categories of brake systems. Every OEM labels them differently but for this discussion I will call them coordinated and non-coordinated. Coordinated brake systems can hold off friction torque when the brake pedal is pressed and command only regen torque. They coordinate the torque requests from both the A pedal and B pedal, hence the name. They require high tech, more expensive brake by wire hardware. Non-coordinated systems can not hold off friction brake torque when the B pedal is pressed. It uses low tech, conventional brake system hardware.
As you can understand, coordinated brake systems are more efficient but at a $ cost. Non-coordinated brake systems can approach the efficiency of a coordinated brake system but at a pedal feel cost (both in a non-traditional A pedal response and B pedal response) and it requires the driver to be more conscious of his/her driving style.
With out exception, all vehicles that have been exposed to the public (production, fleet, limited testing, etc) that have the low tech non-coordinated brake systems (MINI-E, BYD, Tesla Roadster, and most of the late '90 EVs) have had heavy A pedal braking. Without exception, all EVs and Hybrids that have coordinated brake systems have had more conventional A pedal braking, although some have modes that give heavier A pedal braking.
The choice to go with heavier A pedal braking was not made with the driver preference in mind but rather because a lower cost brake system was used. This has sparked a battle between those that prefer it and those that don't with a precieved efficiency improvement with heavier A pedal braking. For any vehicle that has a coordinated brake system (and the production RAV4 EV will since all Toyota vehicles do), there is little efficiency to gain with heavy A pedal and only customer complaints because it doesn't feel like their other vehicle. Also, too heavy A pedal braking CAN be less efficient because of the tendency to over brake. I will not even go into the safety aspects or range certification issues of this (see my past posts on the subject).
And those of you that think that overwhelmingly people will prefer heavy A pedal braking, I respectfully disagree. I have personally been involved with studies of heavy A pedal braking (on coordinated brake system vehicles) with a range of customer types (both experienced electrified vehicle customers and non-experienced) and can tell you that the preference leans toward conventional feel and the efficiency is mixed (although also leans toward conventional feel pedal) depending on the driving style.

· · 3 years ago

Brad,
May I suggest that you write a detailed article on regenerative braking and if possible, get interviews with regen brake engineers from all of the major manufacturers including Toyota, Ford, Nissan, GM, Honda, BMW (Mini), Tesla, Fisker, etc. I think this is one of the least understood functions of electrified vehicles and always sparks a heated debate whenever the topic is brought up. It would be interesting to see if the different suppliers give different stories on aspects of regenerative braking such as heavy A pedal braking.

· · 3 years ago

I like single pedal driving, regardless of what manufacturers might say. I could have put regen on the brake pedal if I wanted.

· · 3 years ago

Finally - Regman and I agree! I think an article on regen braking would be excellent. In fact, Regman - you could write one! (though I think a more objective piece than either of us could write would be of more benefit). Whoever does it needs to get in touch with ACP (left out of the list). The amount of effort, study and engineering that has gone into their system is exceptional. and the results speak for themselves (And you can just *barely* enjoy the result in the Roadster and Mini - need to drive a real ACP car to full take advantage of what it can be). Unfortunately, most of what ACP has to say is in direct contradiction with what Regman has to share on the subject.

Yes, ACP has a horse in this race... and more and more it sounds like Regman does as well. But I've never been clear on Regman's experience. Would love to hear about it at some point.

· · 3 years ago

Suggestion accepted! In the next week, I'll start reaching out to folks at OEMs to see who will talk about regen strategy. Stay tuned.

· Michael (not verified) · 3 years ago

The article makes an unfair comparison. It uses the performance of the I4 Rav4 (9 seconds to 60), and the price of the V6 Rav4. The V6 Rav4 is significantly faster than the I4.

I don't see this selling at $50K, government rebates or not. The Rav4 is an economy FWD SUV, and viewed that way by consumers. Toyota would have to put a different body on it (much nicer looking), and a lot of upscale features (even AWD), to sell it. I predict this vehicle DOA.

· · 3 years ago

Great, Brad! Just make sure that OEM list includes ACP, please! If you ever hear the answer, "because that's the way we've always done it" hang up and run!

· · 3 years ago

Roger on ACP! For sure.

· · 3 years ago

>> @darell "There is no magic "if you cost you will be more efficient" scenario. "

No magic - just good old thermodynamics. Round trip to battery will be < 100% efficient, so coasting is better. Ofcourse regen is better than friction braking.<<
Yeah, I get the thermodynamics. The thing is - regen is only used when you need to slow down faster than you can coast down. If you have the luxury of coasting down - you can accomplish that with A-pedal regen just fine. For some reason, some folks seem to think that just because you have access to aggressive regen on the A-pedal that it must be used for slowing every time. NOT the case. The beauty of the system is that YOU get to meter out how much - if any - regen you'd like to use in every slowing situation. You can control the speed precisely with one foot - and do so as efficiently as possible. There are times when you'd like to slow down maybe 1% faster than you can with coasting. So without thinking, your right foot meters in the smallest amount of regent imaginable - and the car slows exactly as you wish in the most efficient way possible for the situation and your desires. When you're ready to accelerate again, you have that available instantly without again switching pedals.

>>A highly self selected small set of users is a poor representative sample of general population. So, I'll reserve my judgment as to which will be more popular.<<
Yes, at this point you have two choices to gather information.
1, The small group with experience, or
2. The larger group with no experience.

Reserving judgement until you can experience it for yourself is the wise move. However... I rarely hear that happening. Those who have no experience rarely even hesitate to pass judgement on it. I find it odd to have to regularly defend my direct experience against utter ignorance. I won't say that it'll be better for everybody. All I can offer is my experience and views.... and the reality of how efficient and practical it is to use. Using A-pedal regen is NOT at odds with coasting whenever you'd like. And if a percent or two of regen is inadvertently added in when "coasting" there will be no detectable difference in an EV's overall range. There is little sense in arguing about problems that don't exist! I don't mean to be contentious... I'm just always amazed at the resistance to new things that have the potential to be so much better than what we're used to.

· TJ (not verified) · 3 years ago

I think your wild guess price is way to high. I would bet good money that this will come in around $40,000. The cost situation for batteries is improving all the time.

· · 3 years ago

I agree that you should include ACP however I am not sure how experienced they are with complete vehicle integration (including integration with other key EV systems like brakes, climate control, active cooling, electric power assist steering, safety). Their expertise may be in electric powertrain (motor, inverter, batteries, etc.) but have little experience in making a mass production vehicle that will be acceptably to a non-first adaptor EV driver. Their vehicles emphasize the powertrain integration and though they may do it well (e.g.MINI-E), there is so much more to making a vehicle that is durable (15 years 150k miles), has options that customers want, reasonably priced, performes, has good driveability, safety, meets regulations, etc. ACP vehicles (just like the Tesla, BYD) do not have high tech integrated brake systems and therefore must rely on A pedal regen. With that said, it would be interesting to see if ACP, Tesla, BMW, BYD recognize this and give their opinion on the coordinated regen brake systems or defend the brake systems they currently use. Maybe ask them directly if they plan on incorporating these types of systems in their future "higher volume" models (like Model-S). I would be willing to bet that the Model-S (and Rav4) get the Toyota/Lexus coordinated regen brake systems. There is a reason why EVERY major manufacturer incorporates coordinated regen brake systems in all their electrified models; Toyota, Ford, Nissan, Honda (>15Kw powertrain), GM, Mercedes. It is not because they want to spend more money to develop, put in a more complicated and inherently less reliable system, and put more cost into the vehicle. Rather, it is because these systems provide no compromise pedal feel with optimized regenerative braking efficiency that minimizes driving style influence.
As far as listening to >> The small group with experience<<, you can not rely on early adaptor drivers to understand what a typical customer wants. You will find drivers in the complete spectrum of pedal feel preference but I argue that once these vehicles start going to the masses, typical pedal modulation will be the main preference.

· · 3 years ago

> but have little experience in making a mass production vehicle that will be acceptably to a non-first adaptor EV driver. <

As far as I'm concerned, that is another discussion entirely. Making a vehicle that works best for the lowest common denominator driver is not the discussion I want or need to have. We can already see that all around us. What I want to hear about are the efficiency, reliability, safety and practicality issues with the various braking systems we have discussed (in simple terms, A-pedal modulated regen, or a completely separate brake pedal with integrated regen/friction). I have little interest in how best to make cars that focus on idiot-proofness - though I fully understand why we might "need" them.

>> As far as listening to >> The small group with experience<<, you can not rely on early adaptor drivers to understand what a typical customer wants.<<

Right. And as above, the discussion I want to hear is not how to address the lowest common denominator who fears any sort of change - but how do we make the BEST car? And just how many times do we need to hear that those people with experience shouldn't be listened to because we're all crazy and atypical? This happens every day for us EV drivers. We hear it all the time. We're not the "average" drivers. Well, more and more we are - as the Leafs and the Volts make their way into mainstream driveways. Regardless, there can't be any discussion if only the ignorant and those with no experience are listened to. Just because we EV drivers are currently a small group, and that we aren't "typical" consumers - does that mean that all of our ideas are wrong? I don't follow the logic, even though it is constantly beaten into me. If a driver with experience is a poor indicator of how well a certain product works... what else do we have to work with? The answer: Guesses. Or more specifically, WAGs.

>> typical pedal modulation will be the main preference. <<

No matter what the subject is, I'm willing to stipulate that the "main preference" will always be the status quo. The challenge isn't in making things the way we've always made them in the past. The challenge is in making them better, and giving the public a fair chance at choosing what's best. I dare say that if we took a cross section of America and asked "what's better - a Big Mac or steamed vegetables?" That the Big Mac would win. Most drivers fear EVs for no other reason than they're different from the gas cars that they're used to. You can see this in the ignorant comments and fears expressed on forums around the world. I can't drive if the power goes out! What if I forget to plug it in? Emergency responders will leave me to die! Making the batteries pollutes more than making regular cars! All electricity comes from coal!

Just like people are afraid of EVs - the same thing will happen when asked about using a different technique to slow the car. The concept sounds very odd. And it IS quite different... until you've done it for a few minutes. Suddenly it is amazingly intuitive. But you can't convince the inexperienced drivers of that - not when it means doing something *gasp* different!

When did America become so afraid of new stuff?

· · 3 years ago

>>When did America become so afraid of new stuff?<<
I think that the lowest common denominator are the wonks in the auto industry that have no clue how to do anything other than what they've been doing for the past century.
They are guaranteeing that it will be newcomers like Tesla that will have to do the innovation since the old-dogs are refusing to learn new tricks.
I've heard that the president of Western Union was quoted as telling his company that "nobody really wants to talk that much" when introduced by that dumb telephone thing. Now his company is among the least common denominators offering payday loans and wiring money from illegal immigrants back home while the big money has moved on to new things.

· · 3 years ago

I would also suggest it's not that hard to integrate brake pedal regen if that's what is wanted, so I don't buy the "it's cheapest to keep it on the A pedal" argument. DIY 'ers have used off the shelf pressure transducers in the brake line along with switches on the pedal to trigger regen coming on before the friction brakes do and then increase with more pedal pressure.
I'll also agree that doing something because "that's the way it's been done" is probably the wrong way. We have an opportunity to drive a different, and I think, better way, and the truth is the general public can and will get used to it rather quickly.

· · 3 years ago

> and the truth is the general public can and will get used to it rather quickly.

Unless they're constantly told that it is dangerous/cheap/inefficient and basically new and scary.

· · 3 years ago

@darelldd. I hope you are not taking offence by my input to this discussion and I don't think you are "crazy and atypical". I enjoy the debate and I am just trying to state the facts as I know them. I understand you and significant number of others like A-pedal braking and there is some attempt by manufacturers to provide this feel as an option with different gear modes or driving modes. But you have to understand that just because you like it, doesn't mean it is better. Once a manufacturer puts a coordinated regen brake system on the vehicle, A-pedal regen will gain you nothing on governmental label fuel economy/range tests and will cause some people to loose fuel economy depending on their driving style (some will gain but others will loose).
The heavy A pedal braking on all vehicles that have incorporated it in their main driving mode is not a choice they made to get customers to try something new and better but rather a necessity and a result of the use of a non-coordinated regen brake system. In order to justify the non-conventional A and B pedal feel, they say it is "better" because it improves efficiency (which it does on a vehicle with a non-coordinated regen system but not when compared to a coordinated regen system) or provides a "sport" feel.
As far as using Leafs and Volts as an example that >>We're not the "average" drivers<<. I would argue that these vehicles are a great example of the average driver prefer NOT to have A-Pedal regen braking. Both these vehicle (as well as the announced plug in Prius) require the driver to actively select heavier A-pedal regen with either an Econ mode or L gear mode. If it is so much more efficient and acceptable by average drivers, why not put heavier A-Pedal braking in the normal modes. Splain that Lucy.

· · 3 years ago

@regman,
You'll get no argument from me about giving people a choice. I also encourge the ICE industry to still provide the choice of gas guzzling trucks, gas sipping hybrids, big cars, little cars, manual, automatic, 4-on-the-floor, 3-on-the-tree, bench seats, bucket seats, convertibles, etc. I just want EVs and PHEVs to be among the drivetrain choices.Of course, I can't really see why anyone would not want an EV or PHEV once they go into mass production and the prices come down.
There is the slight issue, however, about how to refer to the options:
If you call it Drive and Low, after all, Low is great for driving in hilly terrain and heavy regen will have the same property here. Unfortunately, while familiar to all, it will be confused with an automatic transmission where one isn't supposed to drive in Low or one will damage the transmission and get poor fuel economy.
If you refer to it as eco, regular, or sport modes, I see these as misnomers too although I want that choice too. I see an eco mode as being one that limits ones' max acceleration in order to make it easier to drive economically. I don't see how aggressive A-pedal regen is going to make any difference in ones energy consumption. It all depends on how one drives not where or how much regen is available.
Of course, I don't mind having coordinated-regen on the brake pedal but I really don't want to pay for it or for the liability the manufacturer incurs if the regen and friction braking feel different and are found by some clever ambulance chaser to be the cause of an accident.
I really don't understand your last paragraph Ricky. The Leaf and Volt don't reflect driver preference at all. What is on the road today is a design based upon the usual myopia of their manufacturers plus a few focus group sessions of limited-EV-experienced and totally clueless drivers voicing their opinions. I was in a couple of those focus sessions. There are very few EV drivers today who actually have experience with more than 1 or 2 different EVs as their daily driver so the experience base is limited at best.

· · 3 years ago

"If it is so much more efficient and acceptable by average drivers, why not put heavier A-Pedal braking in the normal modes. Splain that Lucy."

No one said A pedal regen is more efficient, we are simply saying that it is not inherently less efficient, as some claim, and that it is a more comfortable, intuitive, fun, way to drive, even if it takes a little getting used to at first for some.

· · 3 years ago

@regmen -

>> I hope you are not taking offence by my input to this discussion and I don't think you are "crazy and atypical". <<
No offense taken at all! For the record, I'm pretty sure that I *am* a little crazy.

>> I understand you and significant number of others like A-pedal braking and there is some attempt by manufacturers to provide this feel as an option with different gear modes or driving modes. <<
As far as I know, the big auto makers are making no attempt at incorporating this. It is somewhat of a side-effect of certain modes, but I'm pretty sure it was never really intended to be used this way. ex-EV1 covered that pretty well.

>>But you have to understand that just because you like it, doesn't mean it is better.<<
Here's where we seriously diverge. I *completely* understand that me liking the system doesn't make it better. And if you'll read my comments on the subject, you'll find that I've never stated nor implied this. The system is better (in many, and likely not all) ways because it is more intuitive, efficient, practical and offers faster braking response time. It is not better because I like it. I like it because it is better. There's a huge difference there!

>>As far as using Leafs and Volts as an example that >>We're not the "average" drivers<<. I would argue that these vehicles are a great example of the average driver prefer NOT to have A-Pedal regen braking<<
ex-EV1 covered this one well too. I have no idea how you can come to this conclusion. It is like saying the driving public doesn't like EVs because of the fact that there are almost no EVs on the road today. If EVs aren't available to buy, then people can't buy them. If GM and Nissan decide to build the braking one way, and people buy the cars because there are no other EV options... then we're just buying what is available - not the best possible braking system.

And finally...

>>If it is so much more efficient and acceptable by average drivers, why not put heavier A-Pedal braking in the normal modes. Splain that Lucy.<<
1. Nobody has said it is "so much more efficient." I have said that it is more efficient, and meant that it certainly CAN be more efficient. I make no claims for it being wildly more efficient. There's only so much energy to be saved in this area, and it isn't all that big compared to the traction needs.
2. The reason it isn't put into normal modes on cars like the Leaf and Volt is for the reasons I've stated above, and the reasons ex-EV1 just gave: Your average US citizen is scared of anything new. The car makers are afraid to do anything too different for fear of scaring away drivers. And I don't completely blame them - not for these first cars. It is likely a good idea to make them as much like stupid gas cars as possible so the drivers keep the warm-fuzzy feeling of driving a normal car. Eventually down the line we can start making them better and *gasp* different. Or maybe I should say "different and better."

@JRP3 - exactly!

· · 3 years ago

@darelldd,
>> The system is better … in ways because it is more intuitive, efficient, practical and offers faster braking response time<< Let me address these as I see it
More intuitive – This is clearly an opinion and preference. It may be more intuitive if you spend your day golfing.
Efficient – We have already discussed this. It IS more efficient in a vehicle with non-coordinated regen brake systems. It IS NOT more efficient and may be less efficient on vehicles with coordinated regen brake system depending on driving style and pedal modulation (sensitivity) capability. Since most high volume electrified vehicles will have coordinated regen brake systems (this is my assumption but is supported by every vehicle and future vehicle on the market today with the exception of the Roadster which is an entry niche vehicle), efficiency can not be used as an argument for A-Pedal braking being better.
Practical – Again, I believe this is an opinion unless I don't understand what you mean by practical.
Offers faster braking response time – This is where I would argue just the opposite. The response time is only critical during a "panic stop" which for argument sake, I wall call this a stop greater than 0.5 g. The heaviest A-pedal braking that I am aware of is around 0.2g (I believe the Roadster?). Note that 95% of normal braking is between 0.1 and 0.15 g. Therefore, any time that the driver is modulating A-pedal braking less than 0.2 g (> 95% of braking events) and has to has a "panic" stop, it would add time to transition to the brake pedal (0.4-0.5 seconds for an typical driver). This could add 4-6 feet stopping distance depending on the initial speed. If A-pedal braking is limited to 0.05g (typical D gear braking) and the driver is doing a normal stop (between 0.1 and 0.15 g) and has a panic stop, the drivers foot is already on the brake pedal and the transition time is eliminated. Any other scenario such as a fast transition from acceleration to panic braking are similar in response independent of A-pedal braking. I can not think of any scenario where there is a faster response time during a critical braking event that heavy A-pedal regen will help.

As far as my comments on the Volt and Leaf implementing light A-pedal braking in their normal driving modes, my point here is that they know there is no added benefit (efficiency) and will only result in complaint by some drivers and therefore, this is why the implemented it this way. You are making a huge assumption that they (as well as Ford, Toyota, and Honda) have not done market research in this area to determine the acceptability of non-traditional A and B pedal feel. It has nothing to do with them being "scared" to do something "different". I guarantee that they know what their customers like, expect, will accept, and not complain about. They also know that some driver want this and that is why they put it in a selector mode.

· · 3 years ago

@JRP3 "No one said A pedal regen is more efficient, we are simply saying that it is not inherently less efficient, as some claim,"

I don't see anyone claiming A pedal is "inherently less efficient" - the fact is Regen is less efficient than Coasting. Friction braking is less efficient than Regen.

Coasting > Regen > Friction Braking

As to which is more efficient Pedal A or B - not inherently but in practice - comes down to which is easier to coast when possible. Also which is easier to use in regen rather than friction mode when possible.

That depends on the individual (i.e. it is subjective) and also perhaps on the terrain.

· · 3 years ago

We should probably save all this discussion for the forthcoming article entry on the subject. My fear is that we'll rehash all of this yet again. I'm sure everybody is getting as tired of it as I am.

@ regman - The frustration on my part stems from the apparent confusion between what *is* and would *could be.* Many of your arguments are based on the fact that EVs are being built with blended brake-pedal braking. But of course this has nothing to do with which way is better for the consumer. Using this same argument, high-powered, 9,000 pound SUVs are better for us than small sedans.

As for response time - I agree that it will be faster if the driver's foot is already on the brake at the time the panic hits. I'm arguing that if the foot is on the A-pedal when disaster strikes (where the foot spends FAR more time when driving), that the transition time from A-pedal to B-pedal is not lost to coasting like it is when there is no real A-pedal regen. Regen slowing happens instantly, while the driver's foot moves over to the other pedal. You claim that the heaviest A-pedal regen is 0.2g. And you use this info (wrong info, but we'll get to that) to show that it isn't significant enough to help slow the car during the pedal transition. And for this I have two comments - first off, you are again falling into the trap of "what is" vs "what could be." If we pretend that the best regen we have is 0.2g (it isn't), it totally misses the point that we can make that much heavier. This is not opinion. I say this with confidence because I've driven a car with MUCH heavier A-pedal regen. The ACP system is capable of much more regen than either the Roadster or Mini allowed. Whatever those two cars used was chosen (again) to not scare people who are new to the system (educated opinion). I've driven an ACP-equipped car that had the regen dialed wide open. I can all but guarantee that you'd be shocked at the decel potential (yup, my opinion. Yet an opinion with some experience behind it). This car does 0-100-0 in under 11 seconds.

>> As far as my comments on the Volt and Leaf implementing light A-pedal braking in their normal driving modes, my point here is that they know there is no added benefit (efficiency) and will only result in complaint by some drivers and therefore, this is why the implemented it this way <<

Since I've taken some hits on trying to pass off my opinion as fact, I'll have to call you out on this one. When I state my convictions, they are labeled is assumption and opinion...

>> You are making a huge assumption that they (as well as Ford, Toyota, and Honda) have not done market research in this area to determine the acceptability of non-traditional A and B pedal feel.<<

A huge, educated assumption, yes. How could they possibly perform market research on something that does not exist (I mean this in percentage terms - that the number of cars with A-pedal regen is basically 0% of the cars on the road)? How do you ask people what they prefer when they've never used both systems? As long as the people who have used the A-pedal system are ignored, and the people who have never used the system are asked what they prefer... then your assumptions are verified! Are you implying that these car companies somehow set up a car both ways, had people off the street driven them, and then report their desires? So yes - I'm saying that there was no relevant market research done to determine this acceptability. And I say that because... well, because it didn't happen. If it DID happen, I'd sure like to hear what drivers and what cars they studied to draw their conclusions.

>> It has nothing to do with them being "scared" to do something "different". <<

But what of their long history of doing things for this very reason?

>> I guarantee that they know what their customers like, expect, will accept, and not complain about. <<

And many times I have already stipulated this. There is no mystery. People want what they've always had. The status quo is the strongest force in the universe. If marketing research were done, it had to be along the lines of, "Do you want the car to drive and stop just like the car you are driving now? Or would you like some new-fangled way to make it stop that you'll have to learn?" There would be no reason to waste money on that sort of research, now is there? And you know what? I participated in some of these studies, as did several other EV-driving friends. And none of this was ever researched.

>> They also know that some driver want this and that is why they put it in a selector mode <<
I think we'll just have to agree that we both have strong *opinions" and to stop pointing them out. Because arguing against my opinions with yours isn't likely to get us far.

· · 3 years ago

@ EVNow,
Neil certainly implied that A pedal regen was less efficient because costing is better, ignoring the fact that you can coast with A pedal regen.

· · 3 years ago

I guarantee that they know what their customers like, expect, will accept, and not complain about.
Yeah Right! Just like they told everyone that nobody wanted the '90's EVs, there wasn't any waiting list, and the weren't being crushed.
Sorry, if you are GM, Ford, Nissan, Toyota, or Honda, your history gives you zero credibility for suggesting you know what your customers want.

· Josh (not verified) · 3 years ago

Interesting points about A-pedal regen vs. coasting vs. conventional ergonomics. The fact that people want cars to drive just like they've always driven is irrefutable. But through the years, new systems have created new behaviors that today we feel we can't do without. Take for instance the torque converter that had the unpleasant effect off driving off when you released the brakes. Now we're arguing about whether electric cars should creep like automatics. Toyota, Chevy and Nissan say that they should. Is it that way for any other reason than to behave as consumers have come to expect from the status quo?
So now there's a debate about this new feature that does not behave as conventional combustion engines behave (excluding the jake-brake). Is it a feature or a flaw? Darrel and regman's opinions are clear and contrasting. The debate is good but it appears that Darrel is speaking more from a position of experience while regman seems to speak from an opinion of why manufacturers make the choices they make.
However, the fact is that the new mass-market EVs do not coast when the accelerator pedal is released. They have a very light drag to simulate conventional combustion engine braking. Is this more efficient than coasting? Probably not. Is it more efficient than full A-pedal regen? Probably not. So why did they design it this way? We can only speculate that they do not want the customer experience to be any different from what they are used to when they come to test drive cars on the dealer lot.
Here's another interesting fact: in every EV that has an ECO mode, A-pedal regen is stronger. This could as a result of proven efficiency gains or could be a way to provide a single pedal driving experience to those that appreciate it.
Back to my point about torque converters and jake-brakes: the electric motor offers a new driving experience that isn't really available with other propulsion systems. We can ignore that feature and consider it a fault of this technology or we can investigate it to see whether it can actually improves the driving experience. I vote for the latter.

· · 3 years ago

I would point out that anyone driving an ICE vehicle with manual transmission when using lower gears is rather familiar with how A pedal regen feels.

· · 3 years ago

@JRP3,
I agree in principle but A-pedal regen can be a lot smoother and better controlled than engine braking as you describe.

· · 3 years ago

Great post, Josh. Thanks.

And yes to JRP3, and even more yes to ex-EV1. Driving in a low gear is about as close as you can come to demonstrating the effect - but only as similar as saying that driving a 1964 VW bug will give you the idea of what it is like to drive a 2011 Porsche. Seriously - the elegance and performance of a well integrated 1-pedal system is truly astonishing (IMO). It might be only mildly astonishing to to others.

· · 3 years ago

@josh "We can only speculate that they do not want the customer experience to be any different from what they are used to when they come to test drive cars on the dealer lot."

Atleast in the case of Nissan, no need to speculate. Their design goal was to make the experience as close to an automatic as possible. They have largely succeeded. I've to slightly press the Accelerator to coast - not something I enjoy doing - though in Seattle you can't coast much.

Getting back on topic (or rather the Off Topic, topic) - the difference between the two "camps" might stem from what the goal is. For me the goal is two fold. One, to increase the adoption as quickly as possible. Second, to make it easy to drive as efficiently as possible. I think these twin goals can be achieved by having little to no regen on A pedal.

· · 3 years ago

I don't think A pedal regen will prevent anyone from buying an EV. Indeed, most who experienced it for the first time have become enthusiastic supporters of it. Since most people are not used to coasting anyway with an ICE since even automatics have some compression braking, having no regen on the A pedal would actually not be a familiar sensation. Ideally cars will come with user selectable options to fine tune each vehicle to the owner.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 3 years ago

Josh Wrote: "We can only speculate that they do not want the customer experience to be any different from what they are used to when they come to test drive cars on the dealer lot. Here's another interesting fact: in every EV that has an ECO mode, A-pedal regen is stronger. This could as a result of proven efficiency gains or could be a way to provide a single pedal driving experience to those that appreciate it."--------

You hit the nail right on the head Josh. I had this discussion with a friend of mine that is an engineer working on the Ford Focus EV a few months ago. They toiled over whether the efficiency gains of strong "gas" pedal regenerative braking over having to depress the brake pedal to activate it was worth the risk of having the "average consumer" feeling uncomfortable with this new driving experience.

He said they were getting 3-5% increased range with the gas pedal regenerative braking but they were undecided as to how the end product would be since there were insiders that feared some people wouldn't like the feel of it, especially women and older drivers. I'd ask him to come here and write about it himself, but I know he wouldn't. They are really not allowed to discuss anything about cars in development.

· · 3 years ago

@Anonymous,
Why can't the entrenched auto industry wrap their heads around the possibility of giving their customers a choice of preferences with things like this which are simply software settings? Are they so locked into the past when settings were bolted in place or cut in metal that they can't conceive of more than one option? Or is this a control thing where they are afraid to cede control to the customer? Either way, its a bad thing and if they don't get over it, someone else will replace them.

· Anonymous2 (not verified) · 3 years ago

I don't know who at Ford you know but I can tell you from personal knowledge that your description of Ford's assessment of the Focus EV could not be further from the truth. If there was a 3% improvement in EV range, it would be a no brainer and Ford would be applying the heavier lift accelerator pedal braking. Auto manufacturers do everything to eek out tenths of a percent improvement. I obviously can not say who I am but if your "friend" really does work at Ford on the Focus EV, I would suggest that you have him/her talk to the regen brake engineers so that you can get your story strait.

· · 3 years ago

Mr. Anonymous2 -

Ah... all very cloak and dagger. Starting to get interesting now...

You wrote, "Auto manufacturers do everything to eek out tenths of a percent improvement."

But that isn't true, is it? Aesthetics beat out aerodynamics almost every time. We can easily make more aerodynamic cars - but that is rarely a primary consideration. And how about LRR tires? They weren't even considered until quite recently - in favor of higher performance tires that reduce efficiency. SUVs are often given added weight to push them over the 6,000 pound limit so they don't count as passenger cars, and thus don't count for CAFE numbers. All of these decisions make the cars less efficient. There are many multiple percentage point improvements that could be made that would REDUCE the price of cars. But they aren't made because of marketing and/or consumer demand. Please re-think your statement and try again?

If a car maker decides that A-pedal regen will scare off some customers, it doesn't really matter how much efficiency it would gain (understand that I'm not defending any hard numbers here) if they're worried about consumer acceptance.

· tina juarez (not verified) · 3 years ago

Regen quality depends on the motor - Give me that AC / Roadster style regen! Brake pedal regen is needed for DC /sepex motors. Sure it takes developing some new driving skill/style. I want control of the amount of regen too, but I love that Roller coaster stop!

· · 3 years ago

Anonymous2: I have no knowledge of what's going on over at Ford, but I do have intimate knowledge of BMW's EV program and I'll put my name to my comments. BMW has found that they can increase the range of their EV's by as much as 20% with aggressive right pedal regenerative braking as opposed to no regen at all. However they are still balancing how much is too much(in their opinion). As exEv-1 stated above, I wish the OEM's would allow adjustable regen and I have lobbied high level engineers at BMW to do just that. AC Propulsion has an adjustable regen lever on the EBox where the driver can set it at a level they prefer. Whether of not that is the end result on the i3 and i8, I cannot be sure but I can tell you with 100% certainty that they ARE willing to sacrifice some efficiency to provide the driving experience they are aiming to provide.

If anonymous1 is inferring that Ford is considering making an adjustment to the regen that might reduce the range by a percent or two (which would amount to a mile or two of range per charge) in order to achieve what they feel is a better driving experience, than I definitely believe they would do it.

Also, referring to the right/left pedal regen topic, BMW vehicles will have right pedal activated regen and have an intermediary "coast" position. When you back off the accelerator, the regen doesn't immediately take effect. This will make coasting easier as your right foot doesn't have to walk such a fine line between accelerating and regenerative braking. You will need to back off quite a bit before the regen takes effect, and I think it is also speed sensitive, but I'll have more details on that soon.

· · 3 years ago

@darelldd,
>>We should probably save all this discussion for the forthcoming article entry on the subject. My fear is that we'll rehash all of this yet again. I'm sure everybody is getting as tired of it as I am.<<

Agree, although Anonymous and Anonymous2 just opened up a new can of worms.

As far as your comments on Anonymous2's statement "Auto manufacturers do everything to eek out tenths of a percent improvement." I agree that the examples you give are correct however all of these as well as others come with a sacrifice, some of which are regulated like stopping distance and LRR tires. Perhaps Anamymous2 should have said something like "Auto manufacturers do everything to eek out tenths of a percent improvement while providing what the customer wants or is willing to accept." With that said, I think that you missed the point in that if there is truly 3% improvement they would be doing it (and I should note that we don't know what Ford is doing since I have not seen anything in any articles on the Focus EV that talk about this). I do know that they have heavier regen in lower gears on their hybrids and they have announced a brake coach gauge on their website http://www.ford.com/electric/focuselectric/2012/.

· · 3 years ago

@Josh
>>The debate is good but it appears that Darrel is speaking more from a position of experience while regman seems to speak from an opinion of why manufacturers make the choices they make.<<

My comment to this is that I am making an honest attempt to provide information based on facts and information that I know. When an opinion is given, I try to state this as "this is my opinion". I have no problem backing up all my assessments with facts, data, calculation, etc. This is not always practical due to the time it would take to go into the details in some of these areas. I also understand that there is rarely an absolute correct answer and that is why these discussions have different sides.

@Tom Moloughney •
>>I do have intimate knowledge of BMW's EV program and I'll put my name to my comments. BMW has found that they can increase the range of their EV's by as much as 20%<<

I 100% agree but BMW's regen brake system is a non-coordinated brake system and you can improve efficiency this much (20%) with aggressive A-pedal regen. Ford's brake systems have always been coordinated regen systems and A-Pedal regen will not significantly improve efficiency (depending on driving style). You can't compare the efficiency improvements of regen on these 2 vehicles.

· · 3 years ago

@regman: I wasn't trying to compare the two braking systems. I was merely saying is that I know that BMW is willing to sacrifice a percent or two to achieve the driving experience they aim to provide. I can only assume Ford would make the same decision. Anonymous2 implied that Ford wouldn't be willing to sacrifice any regen efficiency, and I believe that to be incorrect. I think they will aim for the best balance they can get.

I don't think they want the car to feel like a parachute was deployed every time the operator backed completely off A pedal to slow down, though I'm sure that would recapture a lot of energy

· · 3 years ago

@Tom Moloughney
I read this differently. Anonymous2's first statement says that Anonymous is completely wrong. i.e "could not be further from the truth". I took this as an implication that Ford is either not considering sacrificing efficiency for comfort or that Ford has determined that there is no sacrifice (i.e. there is no efficiency improvement). I assume that the latter is correct since Anonymous2 further provides insight that a 3% improvement Would be implemented if it was real, regardless of the "average consumer feeling uncomfortable with this new driving experience"

· · 3 years ago

> "Auto manufacturers do everything to eek out tenths of a percent improvement while providing what the customer wants or is willing to accept." <

And this, of course, was exactly my point. Efficiency is sacrificed all the time to cater to what the customer wants. Or at least what the car makers think the customer should want (Like 300hp minivans). The statement that car makers to EVERYTHING to eek out tiny efficiency improvements is simply wrong. By a long shot. I can bring home any new car made today and increase its efficiency legally with just a few minor, off-the-shelf tweaks. But then it might not be as acceptable to Joe Sixpack who is just a tiny bit more concerned with the look of his chrome rims than with saving the planet.

· · 3 years ago

@darelldd,
> "Auto manufacturers do everything to eek out tenths of a percent improvement while providing what the customer wants or is willing to accept." <

I think you were trying to take Anonymous2's original statement too literally but it sounds like you agree with my improved statement. There are always costs to any improvement ($ costs, performance costs, styling costs, etc.) otherwise everyone would be doing it. But I do like to think that Auto manufactures (as well as manufacturer of any product) attempt to make the best cost/benefit assessments that they can and I like to think that Auto manufacturers do everything within reason to improve efficiency. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they don't but in a slight modification to an Abe Lincoln quote "You may please all the people some of the time, you can even please some of the people all of the time, but you cannot please all of the people all the time.”

· · 3 years ago

Brad,
Since you have committed to contacting the auto manufacturers regarding regen brake strategies. I would like to suggest a few questions for them. I am sure others (darelldd and ex-EV1 driver) would like to add to my list.

1. What types of regen brake systems are used on vehicles today?
2. What types of regen brake systems do you use in your hybrids/plug-ins? Why do you use this type of system?
3. What types of regen brake systems does your competition use?
4. Why do you think your systems are better/worse than your competition?
5. What is your strategy on regen braking with the accelerator pedal?
6. What is your strategy on regen braking with the brake pedal?
7. Do you provide or plan to provide options for the driver to select the level of regen with the accelerator pedal? How?
8. What is the energy efficiency of your regen brake system? What percent of total braking energy is typically recovered by regen with various types of driving (city, highway, etc)?
9. What is your assessment of efficiency improvements with heavier or lighter accelerator pedal regen?
10. What is your strategy for providing driver information (instrument cluster gauges) for regenerative braking?

· · 3 years ago

@Regman - Great stuff! Thanks for getting my list started. (Although OEMs almost never openly talk about competition.) This article has a prominent spot in my queue. Stay tuned.

· · 3 years ago

Definitely a good list. I think the relevant information can be summed up with:

-> What type of regenerative braking system are you using, and why?
-> How will it be implemented?

And a big one I'd like to see:

-> Regardless of what can be engineered and how delightful, efficient and safe your system * could* be, what sort of research has been conducted to determine what future customers would want?

And some possible "why" answers:
Customer demand (see above question)
Customer comfort (meaning, "we think customers will be more comfortable with this system")
Efficiency
Safety
Superior driving experience
And of course, "we're scared to make the customer learn anything new."

· · 3 years ago

8. What is the energy efficiency of your regen brake system? What percent of total braking energy is typically recovered by regen with various types of driving (city, highway, etc)?
great questions regman, I particularly like #8 as it will encourage manufacturers to increase efficiency so that we won't pay as much of a price for heavier cars that are more practical.

· · 3 years ago

Let's not lose focus here. Heavier vehicles will always pay a price, you can't make that up with regen, and regen only captures a small percentage of energy. Heavier vehicles are not more practical, they are just heavier, often needlessly so. The largest efficiency gains will be from more efficient driving habits. Jack Rickard from EVTV.ME can get almost the exact same range numbers with and without regen on the same vehicle on the same course. He's done it with A pedal regen, brake pedal regen, and no regen, a number of times. Other people driving the same vehicle on the same route do see a benefit from regen, but they don't have as much experience driving that vehicle.

· tina juarez (not verified) · 3 years ago

Sure coasting to stop is fine if you have no gassers traffic behind you, racing to the stoplight and willing to swerve around you and cut in to stop, causing you to stop right as the light turns green and wait while they get their revs up again. With AC regen, you can release the pedal and have it kick in faster so you are more in sync with the traffic. This from a west coast keen coaster who traded in Honda 600 roller skates for a homemade EV. I still coast to stops, but my next car will have AC & regen on the accelerator!

· · 3 years ago

In addition to what tina juarez said about dealing with real world traffic, what about hills? It is difficult for me to conceive of a no-regen driving style that will compare with regen for going down a steep 1000 foot grade with sharp hairpin turns (no, just coasting won't work: one either slows or "launches").

Believe it or not, roads aren't all level and straight.

· · 3 years ago

@Tom "BMW has found that they can increase the range of their EV's by as much as 20% with aggressive right pedal regenerative braking as opposed to no regen at all."

That is a little confusing. Is this 20% compared to no regen at all or regen only on the B pedal ?

· · 3 years ago

EVNow: Sorry. 20% increase in range using very aggressive right pedal regen as compared to no regen at all. I wasn't trying to compare left Vs right pedal regen when I made that statement. I was saying that they are going to sacrifice some of the efficiency by reducing the strength of the regen to achieve the driving experience they are targeting. I haven't really discussed left vs right with them but the next time I have one of their engineers alone I promise to ask them how much discussion they have put into right vs left. Much of our conversations to date have been how strong should it be. I continuously maintain "Stronger!"

They have decided to have right pedal regen on all their models (at least from what I'm told) so I assume they have had this discussion and done testing, but again, I haven't really asked about it. I honestly just assumed everybody would want the regen on the right pedal, and I'm genuinely surprised at the level of resistance from some of the comments I've read here.

I'm not saying you are right or wrong to like it either way. It's just that literally every person that I know that has driven an EV with right pedal regen for an extended period(not one day!) prefers it that way. The MINI-E drivers that have driven Priuses with left pedal regen also preferred the feel of the regen on the right pedal.

I guess it's just a personal choice. unfortunately I don't think this is something that will be offered as an option that the consumer can choose. The car you like will either have right or left pedal regen. We will probably get to choose the level of regen the car uses, but not which pedal activates it.

· · 3 years ago

> I honestly just assumed everybody would want the regen on the right pedal, and I'm genuinely surprised at the level of resistance from some of the comments I've read here. <

I need to again point out that all resistance comes from the folks who have no experience with it, and who assume they (and the general public) won't like it. Those of us with experience are discounted as being a tiny minority. A bit of chicken and egg, eh?

It is sort of comical that the folks who have used the A-pedal system don't even bother discussing which option is better. They only want to discuss making it MORE aggressive.

> I'm not saying you are right or wrong to like it either way. <

I agree... with the huge caveat that you can't claim to like or dislike something without first giving it an objective try! Or in the case of my daughter... objectively trying to eat it. Of course she can tell by looking at a bit of food if it'll be good or icky.

· · 3 years ago

To clarify my previous statement of course I realize that there are many driving situations, steep hills, lots of stop and go, where regen will certainly make a difference compared to no regen. My point is that regen does not always translate into significant range improvements. Where range will probably be needed the most, long distance steady state driving, it may not do much. I specifically chose an AC system for my conversion because I live in an area where most of the time I'm going up or down hill.

· · 3 years ago

@Tom "It's just that literally every person that I know that has driven an EV with right pedal regen for an extended period(not one day!) prefers it that way."

That shouldn't be surprising. One gets used to what you have been doing. You can see that in the group think on this from all EV old timers. Then they start thinking that is the only way to build EVs and before you know it they are demanding the head of anyone who thinks otherwise ;-)

· · 3 years ago

I think all experience should be banned. Just gets in the way of free thinking.

· Max Regen (not verified) · 2 years ago

I think what's missing here is an explanation that just because you have regen on the A pedal doesn't mean you can't coast. Instead of the coast point being with the pedal all the way up, the coast point is now with the pedal partially pressed. So, there's no loss of efficiency on flat roads or open roads or whatever - there's just a gain in convenience of not having to move your foot to another pedal to slow down. And, for emergency stops, you get some regen braking while your foot is moving to the brake pedal, so arguably it's a bit safer, too.

It's a win-win, as those with experience have said.

· · 2 years ago

@Max Regen "I think what's missing here is an explanation that just because you have regen on the A pedal doesn't mean you can't coast. Instead of the coast point being with the pedal all the way up, the coast point is now with the pedal partially pressed."

No - the question is - are you using regen most of the time or coasting. Which ever is more, you want that to be easy to achieve.

The easiest solution is to give both options. Leaf for eg., has a 'D' and an 'Eco' mode. They could have programmed such that D coats when accelerator is not pressed and Eco regens when it is not pressed (like it does now). Unfortunately, Leaf regens on both D & Eco, but to different degrees.

· · 2 years ago

Isn't there a neutral pedal position that allows coasting?

· · 2 years ago

>> Isn't there a neutral pedal position that allows coasting? <<

We really REALLY need a thread dedicated to this one subject so we don't all have to type the same thing so many times on so many threads.

With a single-pedal system, you go exactly as fast as you want to go. That might be with 0.0001% regen, with 4% throttle, with coasting, with full throttle, with full regen or anything in-between. It is pretty simple to feel where "neutral" is after just a short experience with it. There is no more efficient, effective or pleasant way to drive that I've ever experienced.

· · 2 years ago

I realize the theory, but on some vehicles the "neutral" position maybe narrow and hard to hold. I know on my conversion it does take some effort to find and hold a true neutral position.

· · 2 years ago

The good news is that all we need to do is design and build the cars correctly, and we won't have the problem that your conversion seems to have. ;)

I'm not speaking about the "theory" at all. I'm talking about the reality of the ACP system that I've used in various vehicles. And again... we really need a thread on this!

· · 2 years ago

My question was about the LEAF system, what ACP does is irrelevant. I'm all for A pedal regen, I know how it can work, I just don't know how it works in the real world in the LEAF. EVNow's post about the LEAF regen seems to imply that you can't coast when in "D".

· · 2 years ago

You can coast in Leaf - but it takes some considerable effort. You have to watch the energy screen and make sure the power consumed is zero. There is no accelerator pedal feedback that tells you when you are in a neutral position.

What I'd like is an "eco" cruise control that drives to maximize the economy instead of maintain the speed even when going uphill.

· · 2 years ago

Why would we ignore how A pedal regen works in a system that's designed properly for it, and only talk about how it works in a car that most definitely is NOT designed for it? I thought we were talking about A-pedal regen, not about the Leaf... in a thread about an ACP car???? I'm lost.

· · 2 years ago

Because I was specifically asking how the regen was setup in the LEAF, in response to EVNow's post about regen in the LEAF. Also, the RAV4 is actually not an ACP car, it's a Tesla car. Tesla has altered their system to be different than the original ACP design and I don't believe they even pay licensing fees to ACP any longer. For example Tesla no longer uses the motor windings as part of the charge circuit the way ACP does, so they don't need to electrically isolate the motor from the transmission.

· · 2 years ago

EVNow, I'm not saying there is or should be any physical feedback in the pedal feel, that might be odd, just that there should be a large enough section of pedal travel that allows a steady foot to hold a neutral position without constantly watching the power consumption.

· · 2 years ago

>>Because I was specifically asking how the regen was setup in the LEAF <<

Ah. Sorry. though your post followed EVnow's, it wasn't clear to me that your question was specifically about his Leaf example. And good point about the Tesla/ACP thing. I still contend that Tesla has learned how to implement this correctly (as compared to Nissan, for example). Or to put it another way, Nissan had NO intention to supply single-pedal driving like the Tesla products do.

· · 2 years ago

Agree, and they may have had good reason not to. Testing may have shown the general public to think strong A pedal regen was "weird", and with only limited test drives they would not have a chance to get used to it. Since Nissan want's to appeal to the general public they probably don't want to make the product too different from what people are used to. I'd like to see adjustable software profiles that the end user can select for their taste. That way each driver can get the experience they want. Someday...

· · 2 years ago

@darelldd "Nissan had NO intention to supply single-pedal driving like the Tesla products do"

Absolutely. They want to sell 150K cars a year, not 1.5K in 5 years.

Nissan went to great lengths to make the car as "normal" as they can - much to the dismay of all the enthusiasts like us. I'd have liked a lot of things to be different - but then, I have no experience making and selling millions of cars a year. So, may be Nissan knows a thing or two that I don't. I've no doubt ESFlow will be different in many respects.

Back on topic, unfortunately, I don't think Toyota is aiming to mass produce Rav4 EV either. They probably look at Prius PHV as their first mass produced plug-in.

· · 2 years ago

To go off topic again, is there official word that Nissan will actually build the ESFlow?

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