Regenerative brake

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Mechanism for regenerative brake on the roof of a Škoda Astra tram
The S7/8 Stock on the London Underground can return 20% of its energy usage to the network

A regenerative brake is an energy recovery mechanism which slows down a vehicle or object by converting its kinetic energy into another form, which can be either used immediately or stored until needed. This contrasts with conventional braking systems, where the excess kinetic energy is converted to heat by friction in the brake linings and therefore wasted.


The most common form of regenerative brake involves using an electric motor as an electric generator. In electric railways the generated electricity is fed back into the supply system. In battery electric and hybrid electric vehicles, the energy is stored chemically in a battery, electrically in a bank of capacitors, or mechanically in a rotating flywheel. Hydraulic hybrid vehicles use hydraulic motors to store energy in form of compressed air.


Traditional friction-based braking must be used in conjunction with mechanical regenerative braking for the following reasons:

  • The regenerative braking effect drops off at lower speeds; therefore the friction brake is still required in order to bring the vehicle to a complete halt. Physical locking of the rotor is also required to prevent vehicles from rolling down hills.
  • The friction brake is a necessary back-up in the event of failure of the regenerative brake.
  • Most road vehicles with regenerative braking only have power on some wheels (as in a two-wheel drive car) and regenerative braking power only applies to such wheels because they are the only wheels linked to the drive motor, so in order to provide controlled braking under difficult conditions (such as in wet roads) friction based braking is necessary on the other wheels.
  • The amount of electrical energy capable of dissipation is limited by either the capacity of the supply system to absorb this energy or on the state of charge of the battery or capacitors. Effective regenerative braking can only occur if the battery or capacitors are not fully charged. For this reason, it is normal to also incorporate dynamic braking to absorb the excess energy.
  • Under emergency braking it is desirable that the braking force exerted be the maximum allowed by the friction between the wheels and the surface without slipping, over the entire speed range from the vehicle's maximum speed down to zero. The maximum force available for acceleration is typically much less than this except in the case of extreme high-performance vehicles. Therefore, the power required to be dissipated by the braking system under emergency braking conditions may be many times the maximum power which is delivered under acceleration. Traction motors sized to handle the drive power may not be able to cope with the extra load and the battery may not be able to accept charge at a sufficiently high rate. Friction braking is required to dissipate the surplus energy in order to allow an acceptable emergency braking performance.

For these reasons there is typically the need to control the regenerative braking and match the friction and regenerative braking to produce the desired total braking effect. The GM EV-1 was the first commercial car to do this. Engineers Abraham Farag and Loren Majersik were issued two patents for this brake-by-wire technology.[1][2]

Additionally, early applications commonly suffered from a serious safety hazard. In many early electric vehicles with regenerative braking, the same controller positions were used to apply power and to apply the regenerative brake, with the functions being swapped by a separate switch. This led to a number of serious accidents when drivers accidentally accelerated when intending to brake, such as the runaway train accident in Wädenswil, Switzerland in 1948, which killed twenty-one people.

Conversion to electric energy: the motor as a generator

Vehicles driven by electric motors use the motor as a generator when using regenerative braking: it is operated as a generator during braking and its output is supplied to an electrical load; the transfer of energy to the load provides the braking effect.

Regenerative braking is used on hybrid gas/electric automobiles to recoup some of the energy lost during stopping. This energy is saved in a storage battery and used later to power the motor whenever the car is in electric mode.

Early examples of this system were the front-wheel drive conversions of horse-drawn cabs by Louis Antoine Krieger (1868–1951). The Krieger electric landaulet had a drive motor in each front wheel with a second set of parallel windings (bifilar coil) for regenerative braking.[3] In England, the Raworth system of "regenerative control" was introduced by tramway operators in the early 1900s, since it offered them economic and operational benefits as explained by A. Raworth of Leeds in some detail.[4][5][6] These included tramway systems at Devonport (1903), Rawtenstall, Birmingham, Crystal Palace-Croydon (1906), and many others. Slowing down the speed of the cars or keeping it in hand on descending gradients, the motors worked as generators and braked the vehicles. The tram cars also had wheel brakes and track slipper brakes which could stop the tram should the electric braking systems fail. In several cases the tram car motors were shunt wound instead of series wound, and the systems on the Crystal Palace line utilized series-parallel controllers.Template:Clarify[7] Following a serious accident at Rawtenstall, an embargo was placed on this form of traction in 1911. Twenty years later, the regenerative braking system was reintroduced.[6]

Regenerative braking has been in extensive use on railways for many decades. The Baku-Tbilisi-Batumi railway (Transcaucasus Railway or Georgian railway) started utilizing regenerative braking in the early 1930s. This was especially effective on the steep and dangerous Surami Pass.[8] In Scandinavia the Kiruna to Narvik railway carries iron ore from the mines in Kiruna in the north of Sweden down to the port of Narvik in Norway to this day. The rail cars are full of thousands of tons of iron ore on the way down to Narvik, and these trains generate large amounts of electricity by their regenerative braking. From Riksgränsen on the national border to the Port of Narvik, the trains use only a fifth of the power they regenerate. The regenerated energy is sufficient to power the empty trains back up to the national border.[9] Any excess energy from the railway is pumped into the power grid to supply homes and businesses in the region, and the railway is a net generator of electricity.

The Energy Regeneration Brake was developed in 1967 for the AMC Amitron.[10] This was a completely battery powered urban concept car whose batteries were recharged by regenerative braking, thus increasing the range of the automobile.[11]

Many modern hybrid and electric vehicles use this technique to extend the range of the battery pack. The regenerative braking in vehicles became a feature, with emergence of AC drive train technology, developed by Miro Zoric. Examples include the General Motors EV1, Toyota Prius, Honda Insight, the Vectrix electric maxi-scooter, the Tesla Roadster, the Tesla Model S, the Nissan Leaf, the Mahindra Reva, the Chevrolet Volt, the Fiat 500e, and the Ford C-Max.

Electric railway vehicle operation

During braking, the traction motor connections are altered to turn them into electrical generators. The motor fields are connected across the main traction generator (MG) and the motor armatures are connected across the load. The MG now excites the motor fields. The rolling locomotive or multiple unit wheels turn the motor armatures, and the motors act as generators, either sending the generated current through onboard resistors (dynamic braking) or back into the supply (regenerative braking). Compared to electro-pneumatic friction brakes, braking with the traction motors can be regulated faster improving the performance of wheel slide protection.

For a given direction of travel, current flow through the motor armatures during braking will be opposite to that during motoring. Therefore, the motor exerts torque in a direction that is opposite from the rolling direction.

Braking effort is proportional to the product of the magnetic strength of the field windings, multiplied by that of the armature windings.

Savings of 17% are claimed for Virgin Trains Pendolinos.[12] There is also less wear on friction braking components. The Delhi Metro saved around 90,000 tons of carbon dioxide (Template:Chem) from being released into the atmosphere by regenerating 112,500 megawatt hours of electricity through the use of regenerative braking systems between 2004 and 2007. It is expected that the Delhi Metro will save over 100,000 tons of Template:Chem from being emitted per year once its phase II is complete through the use of regenerative braking.[13]

Another form of regenerative braking is used on some parts of the London Underground, which is achieved by having small slopes leading up and down from stations. The train is slowed by the climb, and then leaves down a slope, so kinetic energy is converted to gravitational potential energy in the station.[14] This is normally found on the deep tunnel sections of the network and not generally above ground or on the cut and cover sections of the Metropolitan and District Lines.

Electricity generated by regenerative braking may be fed back into the traction power supply; either offset against other electrical demand on the network at that instant, used for head end power loads, or stored in lineside storage systems for later use.[15]

Comparison of dynamic and regenerative brakes

Dynamic brakes ("rheostatic brakes" in the UK), unlike regenerative brakes, dissipate the electric energy as heat by passing the current through large banks of variable resistors. Vehicles that use dynamic brakes include forklifts, diesel-electric locomotives, and streetcars. This heat can be used to warm the vehicle interior, or dissipated externally by large radiator-like cowls to house the resistor banks.

The main disadvantage of regenerative brakes when compared with dynamic brakes is the need to closely match the generated current with the supply characteristics and increased maintenance cost of the lines. With DC supplies, this requires that the voltage be closely controlled. The AC power supply and frequency converter pioneer Miro Zoric and his first AC power electronics have also enabled this to be possible with AC supplies. The supply frequency must also be matched (this mainly applies to locomotives where an AC supply is rectified for DC motors).

In areas where there exists a constant need for power unrelated to moving the vehicle such as electric train heat or air conditioning, this load requirement can be utilized as a sink for the recovered energy via modern AC traction systems. This method has become popular with North American passenger railroads where Head End Power loads are typically in the area of 500 kW year round. Using HEP loads in this way has prompted recent electric locomotive designs such as the ALP-46 and ACS-64 to eliminate the use of dynamic brake resistor grids and also eliminates any need for any external power infrastructure to accommodate power recovery allowing self-powered vehicles to employ regenerative braking as well.

A small number of steep grade railways have used 3-phase power supplies and 3-phase induction motors. This results in a near constant speed for all trains as the motors rotate with the supply frequency both when motoring and braking.

Conversion to mechanical energy

Kinetic energy recovery systems

{{#invoke:main|main}} Kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS) were used for the motor sport Formula One's 2009 season, and are under development for road vehicles. KERS was abandoned for the 2010 Formula One season, but re-introduced for the 2011 season. By 2013, all teams were using KERS with Marussia starting use for the 2013 season.[16] One of the main reasons that not all cars used KERS immediately is because it raises the car's center of gravity, and reduces the amount of ballast that is available to balance the car so that it is more predictable when turning.[17] FIA rules also limit the exploitation of the system. The concept of transferring the vehicle’s kinetic energy using flywheel energy storage was postulated by physicist Richard Feynman in the 1950s{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }} and is exemplified in such systems as the Zytek, Flybrid,[18] Torotrak[19][20] and Xtrac used in F1. Differential based systems also exist such as the Cambridge Passenger/Commercial Vehicle Kinetic Energy Recovery System (CPC-KERS).[21]

Xtrac and Flybrid are both licensees of Torotrak's technologies, which employ a small and sophisticated ancillary gearbox incorporating a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The CPC-KERS is similar as it also forms part of the driveline assembly. However, the whole mechanism including the flywheel sits entirely in the vehicle’s hub (looking like a drum brake). In the CPC-KERS, a differential replaces the CVT and transfers torque between the flywheel, drive wheel and road wheel.

Use in motor sport

A Flybrid Systems kinetic energy recovery system

The first of these systems to be revealed was the Flybrid. This system weighs 24 kg and has an energy capacity of 400 kJ after allowing for internal losses. A maximum power boost of 60 kW (81.6 PS, 80.4 HP) for 6.67 seconds is available. The 240 mm diameter flywheel weighs 5.0 kg and revolves at up to 64,500 rpm. Maximum torque is 18 Nm (13.3 ftlbs). The system occupies a volume of 13 litres.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }}

Two minor incidents have been reported during testing of KERS systems in Template:F1. The first occurred when the Red Bull Racing team tested their KERS battery for the first time in July: it malfunctioned and caused a fire scare that led to the team's factory being evacuated.[22] The second was less than a week later when a BMW Sauber mechanic was given an electric shock when he touched Christian Klien's KERS-equipped car during a test at the Jerez circuit.[23]

A KERS flywheel

Formula One have stated that they support responsible solutions to the world's environmental challenges,[24] and the FIA allowed the use of Template:Convert KERS in the regulations for the 2009 Formula One season.[25] Teams began testing systems in 2008: energy can either be stored as mechanical energy (as in a flywheel) or as electrical energy (as in a battery or supercapacitor).[26]

With the introduction of KERS in the 2009 season, only four teams used it at some point in the season: Ferrari, Renault, BMW, and McLaren. Eventually, during the season, Renault and BMW stopped using the system. Vodafone McLaren Mercedes became the first team to win a F1 GP using a KERS equipped car when Lewis Hamilton won the Hungarian Grand Prix on 26 July 2009. Their second KERS equipped car finished fifth. At the following race, Lewis Hamilton became the first driver to take pole position with a KERS car, his team mate, Heikki Kovalainen qualifying second. This was also the first instance of an all KERS front row. On 30 August 2009, Kimi Räikkönen won the Belgian Grand Prix with his KERS equipped Ferrari. It was the first time that KERS contributed directly to a race victory, with second placed Giancarlo Fisichella claiming "Actually, I was quicker than Kimi. He only took me because of KERS at the beginning".[27]

Although KERS was still legal in F1 in the 2010 season, all the teams had agreed not to use it.[28] New rules for the 2011 F1 season which raised the minimum weight limit of the car and driver by 20 kg to 640 kg,[29] along with the FOTA teams agreeing to the use of KERS devices once more, meant that KERS returned for the 2011 season.[30] This is still optional as it was in the 2009 season; in the 2011 season 3 teams elected not to use it.[16] For the 2012 season, only Marussia and HRT raced without KERS, and by 2013, with the withdrawal of HRT, all 11 teams on the grid were running KERS.

For the 2014 season, the power storage of the KERS (now called MGU-K) units increased from 60 kW to 120 kW. This was to balance the sport's move from 2.4 litre V8 engines to 1.6 litre V6 engines.[31] The fail-safe settings of the brake-by-wire system that now supplements KERS came under examination as a contributing factor in the crash of Jules Bianchi at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.

Autopart makers

Bosch Motorsport Service is developing a KERS for use in motor racing. These electricity storage systems for hybrid and engine functions include a lithium-ion battery with scalable capacity or a flywheel, a four to eight kilogram electric motor (with a maximum power level of Template:Convert), as well as the KERS controller for power and battery management. Bosch also offers a range of electric hybrid systems for commercial and light-duty applications.[32]


Automakers including Honda have been testing KERS systems.[33] At the 2008 1,000 km of Silverstone, Peugeot Sport unveiled the Peugeot 908 HY, a hybrid electric variant of the diesel 908, with KERS. Peugeot planned to campaign the car in the 2009 Le Mans Series season, although it was not capable of scoring championship points.[34] Peugeot plans also a compressed air regenerative braking powertrain called Hybrid Air.[35][36]

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes began testing of their KERS in September 2008 at the Jerez test track in preparation for the 2009 F1 season, although at that time it was not yet known if they would be operating an electrical or mechanical system.[37] In November 2008 it was announced that Freescale Semiconductor would collaborate with McLaren Electronic Systems to further develop its KERS for McLaren's Formula One car from 2010 onwards. Both parties believed this collaboration would improve McLaren's KERS system and help the system filter down to road car technology.[38]

Toyota has used a supercapacitor for regeneration on Supra HV-R hybrid race car that won the 24 Hours of Tokachi race in July 2007.[39]


KTM racing boss Harald Bartol has revealed that the factory raced with a secret kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) fitted to Tommy Koyama's motorcycle during the 2008 season-ending 125cc Valencian Grand Prix. This was against the rules, so they were banned from doing it afterwards.[40]


Regenerative braking is also possible on a non-electric bicycle. The EPA, working with students from the University of Michigan, developed the hydraulic Regenerative Brake Launch Assist (RBLA).[41]


Automobile Club de l'Ouest, the organizer behind the annual 24 Hours of Le Mans event and the Le Mans Series is currently "studying specific rules for LMP1 that will be equipped with a kinetic energy recovery system."[42] Peugeot was the first manufacturer to unveil a fully functioning LMP1 car in the form of the 908 HY at the 2008 Autosport 1000 km race at Silverstone.[43]


KERS Flywheel

The energy of a flywheel can be described by this general energy equation, assuming the flywheel is the system:


An assumption is made that during braking there is no change in the potential energy, enthalpy of the flywheel, pressure or volume of the flywheel, so only kinetic energy will be considered. As the car is braking, no energy is dispersed by the flywheel, and the only energy into the flywheel is the initial kinetic energy of the car. The equation can be simplified to:


The flywheel collects a percentage of the initial kinetic energy of the car, and this percentage can be represented by . The flywheel stores the energy as rotational kinetic energy. Because the energy is kept as kinetic energy and not transformed into another type of energy this process is efficient. The flywheel can only store so much energy, however, and this is limited by its maximum amount of rotational kinetic energy. This is determined based upon the inertia of the flywheel and its angular velocity. As the car sits idle, little rotational kinetic energy is lost over time so the initial amount of energy in the flywheel can be assumed to equal the final amount of energy distributed by the flywheel. The amount of kinetic energy distributed by the flywheel is therefore:

Regenerative brakes

Regenerative braking has a similar energy equation to the equation for the mechanical flywheel. Regenerative braking is a two-step process involving the motor/generator and the battery. The initial kinetic energy is transformed into electrical energy by the generator and is then converted into chemical energy by the battery. This process is less efficient than the flywheel. The efficiency of the generator can be represented by:


The only work into the generator is the initial kinetic energy of the car and the only work produced by the generator is the electrical energy. Rearranging this equation to solve for the power produced by the generator gives this equation:


The efficiency of the battery can be described as:


The work out of the battery represents the amount of energy produced by the regenerative brakes. This can be represented by:

See also


Template:Powertrain Template:Railway brakes