Electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids still have two pedals under your feet, a gas pedal, and a brake. So, what is one-pedal driving, how can you stop without hitting the brakes, and why does it matter?
One-pedal driving is exactly what it sounds like. You can accelerate and brake with only the gas pedal, all while gaining extra battery life and range simultaneously. This is known as an e-pedal, i-pedal, or other names, and it uses regenerative braking.
Similar to switching from a manual transmission to an automatic, using one-pedal driving takes some getting used to, but it does have advantages. The new drive mode has fans and haters, but here’s how it works and why you should use it.
A regular gas-powered car will “coast” when you take your foot off the gas. Sure, it’ll stop eventually, but you must apply the brakes, which create friction with the wheels, to quickly slow or stop the vehicle.
With one-pedal driving on an EV, the electric motors actually help slow down the vehicle, and the energy it produces during the slowdown can be converted into usable battery power. On most electric cars and hybrids, this is optional, and there is an on/off button to engage the mode.
Electric cars have regenerative braking systems, which essentially use the same electric motors that propel the vehicle to also slow it down, only in reverse. This happens by default, but you can turn it on or up, making an even bigger difference. One-pedal driving can bring a vehicle to a complete stop without the driver ever hitting the actual brake.
In other terms, when you stop sending power to electric motors, the car’s momentum spins the motors the opposite way. This action slows down the vehicle, like hitting the brakes, all while creating electricity. Depending on the year, model, or make, some EVs have adjustable modes that allow the regen braking to work more, or less, to your preference. Many hybrid and PHEVs have regenerative braking, but most of those systems aren’t aggressive enough to offer one-pedal driving.
Once you get used to the new system, there are several benefits to one-pedal driving. For example, when you’re low on battery and can turn on regenerative braking, the car will get a little battery life back.
If you have a model with adjustable regenerative braking, increasing the levels can improve how much battery power the system captures from one-pedal driving. When you let off the brake, the motors slow the car down much faster and capture more energy and electricity to send to the battery. It’s not a ton, mind you, but every little bit counts.
Driving this way can take some strain off your legs on a long road trip and reduce stress; you only have to focus on one pedal. That said, it’s not all-or-nothing, and you’ll still need to apply the actual brake in certain situations.
Another benefit of one-pedal driving is reducing wear and tear on your brake system. You won’t be applying the physical brake pads as often, and you’ll end up with less maintenance.
So, should you use one-pedal braking and driving on your EV or hybrid? Is it better than regular driving? That depends on the person, but it certainly has a few benefits that most electric car owners seem to enjoy. If your car has it, we recommend giving it a try.
It’s similar to downshifting a manual to slow the vehicle. Only it doesn’t take all that effort to push in the clutch, change gears, and know what speeds are acceptable for each gear. The car’s electric motors do all the work.
Many Tesla owners are very familiar with how well regenerative braking works. Some can even let off the gas pedal while approaching a stop light at the right time, as they know roughly how far the car will go before it comes to a complete stop automatically. But again, this varies by model, so always be ready to hit the brakes.
Keep in mind that one-pedal driving isn’t ideal on wet or slippery roads, and it’s not the best to use on a steep decline. You may be tempted to try and gain battery going down a canyon, but it’s safer to stick to regular driving.
Additionally, it’s important to note that some models will limit one-pedal driving when your battery is fully charged. Plus, most manufacturers say not to use it in cold weather.
Think of one-pedal driving like cruise control, lane assist, or a backup camera. It’s a helpful feature available on many newer electric vehicles, but don’t rely on it entirely. You’ll still need to be mindful of nearby cars and ready to tap the brake, but you can still benefit from this newer technology.
One-pedal driving is available on different EVs and hybrids from Chevrolet, Audi, Hyundai, KIA, Tesla, Nissan, Polestar, and more. If you’re looking for a new EV, choose one that has it.