Car Design of the Future: One Pedal or Two?

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With less than three percent of automobiles being sold with manual transmissions, it would seem the “two or three pedals” argument has been decided. However, a new argument is about to take its place – “one pedal or two?” New technologies are being developed that will make an impact on car design and the future of driving.

Utilizing the efficiency of regenerative braking, it’s rumored that Nissan’s Leaf will weigh-in to the argument of “one pedal or two.” Technology has improved, allowing the amount of energy that can be recaptured to increase. With the engine doing the braking, there really is no need for two pedals. However, it is suspected that the Leaf will include a brake pedal, but only in the case of emergency.

While this new technology might not sound all that cool, it does offer environmental advantages that should interest the vast numbers of people concerned about the environment. Namely, with the engine doing the braking, there will be less brake dust in the air, which can be a harmful particulate.

How the driver will adjust to engine braking is another topic. Lifting the foot off the gas pedal will cause a deceleration that could take some getting used to. However, by simply referring to the laws of physics, we know that whenever you step on your brake pedal, energy is wasted. This is why automakers have worked toward capturing that kinetic energy.

When the kinetic energy can be harnessed, it can be converted to electricity, recharging a car’s batteries. Toyota has implemented this in their Prius model, as has Tesla in its Roadster. As we think of this as new technology in cars, it’s actually been around since the days of the trolley car. However, electric bicycles and Formula One cars also utilize regenerative braking technology.

Today’s electric and hybrid automobiles require a sophisticated electronic circuitry, including special circuits that will route the generated electricity to the batteries. Some cars utilize capacitors that will store the energy for use later.

Drivers would be able to control the way their vehicle responds when the foot comes off the accelerator. For example, if they prefer to have the braking begin after a few seconds, allowing them to coast for a bit after taking their foot off the accelerator, they can create a preset for that.

Since the technology is so new to drivers, it will likely require some time behind the wheel before this technology makes any big advancements.

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