A big advantage of electric cars is the regenerative braking. During the so-called recuperation process, the electric motor converts the vehicle’s kinetic energy into electricity and stores it in the battery. The resulting braking force simultaneously reduces the speed of the vehicle. Anyone who has ever driven an electric car knows this effect only too well. And if you use it with foresight, the brake pedal of an electric car will only have to be used rarely. The regenerative braking is sufficient for braking in most situations. With Tesla, this effect works when braking in a way that the brakes are only lightly depressed just before the car comes to a complete stop. Newer models even master the complete “one-pedal-driving” and slow down completely to a standstill.
The whole principle of regenerative braking is already explained in this video:
Unfortunately, regenerative braking also has disadvantages for the Tesla brakes
This all reads really well. Saving electricity by putting some energy back into the battery. Save brake pad wear by using the brakes infrequently and thus save real money. Some Tesla drivers don’t need to change their brake pads even after 200’000 miles. Furthermore, one-pedal driving is fun. Simply use your right foot on the accelerator pedal to dose the energy. Wow! Unfortunately, the disadvantage is that the brake disks of a car are made of steel, which tends to rust very much. With normal use of the brakes this is no problem. The rust is simply ground off during braking before it can clog the discs too much. But if you rarely use brakes, you are not doing your Tesla any good. This can even go so far that at some point the brake discs are so badly rusted that the braking effect is greatly reduced:
The original idea of driving with foresight and thus saving your brakes and wallet can become a fallacy. Instead of the longest possible service life, the brake discs must then be replaced at the latest at the next vehicle inspection. Not only do the discs suffer, but also the brake pads literally deteriorate at some point if they are not used enough.
The solution is simple
Brake! Put on the brakes! That’s right! 🙂 Just apply the brakes once every few days. The best place to do this is at the freeway exit to get some pressure on the brake discs for a few seconds. I do this by moving the gear selector lever of my Model S to the neutral position “N” while driving. In this state the car just keeps rolling. The gas pedal and the regenerative braking are completely switched off. Now, after a look in the rearview mirror, you can certainly step on the brakes a bit harder to put the pads under the right strain. Afterwards, the gear selector lever back to drive “D”. With a gentle pressure on the accelerator pedal you can also catch the regenerative braking that starts then. This keeps the brake discs fit and looking good:
Special situations with the Tesla brakes
If you come home in the rain in the evening, you may already have noticed that the parking brake sticks the next day. The car moves only with a slight jerk and a muffled bang. The reason for this is the wet brake pads that literally rust firmly on the discs. Unfortunately, this can only be fixed by “drying” the discs just before parking (only if you park in a garage). Just press the brake pedal a little harder to dry the discs just before parking. The same applies also after the car wash.
Regenerative braking and heavy electric cars
A few words about regenerative braking: You often read that Tesla’s are very heavy compared to other electric cars because of the large battery and therefore waste energy. This is not as bad as it sounds. Heavy electric cars benefit more from regenerative braking than light vehicles. Part of the additional consumption compared to a lighter electric car is compensated for by this. Ultimately, this means that lightweight construction plays no role at all in electric cars.
A perfect example is an electric dump truck. Due to its weight of 110 tons (fully loaded) when driving downhill, it produces all the electricity it needs for driving uphill (empty). This saves 50,000 liters of diesel per year.