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What's One Pedal Driving on an EV?

By Michael O'Connor | June 22, 2022

What is One-Pedal Driving on an EV?

One-pedal driving is a driving mode on electric vehicles that allows you to brake simply by taking your foot off the accelerator pedal. EVs with one-pedal operation also have brake pedals like a gas-powered car but they don’t need to be applied every time you have to stop the car. This type of operation can take some getting used to but many people prefer it to the traditional configuration.

When driving a car with a one-pedal operation, such as the Nissan Leaf or Chevrolet Bolt EV, you can bring the car to a complete stop without having to press on the brake pedal. When you take your foot off the gas, the car will start to decelerate with approximately 20 percent of the braking force. This allows you to bring the car to a slow stop comfortably without having to press on a different pedal.

Electric vehicles are quickly becoming the most popular cars on the market. With a wide variety of options and ranges getting longer every year, there has never been a better time to purchase an electric car. However, as with any new technology, there will be some changes you have to get used to. One of the most prominent changes with electric cars is one-pedal driving.

One-pedal driving is a feature that is unique to electric vehicles. It has both benefits and drawbacks and is hotly contested amongst EV drivers. If you have been thinking about buying a battery electric vehicle, you must understand what you are getting into. Knowing everything you can about one-pedal driving can help you decide if it is right for you.

Why is One-Pedal Driving Possible on EVs?

One-pedal driving mode is made possible on electric cars due to regenerative braking. Plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles can charge the batteries using the kinetic energy of the vehicle moving forward and converting it into power. This extends the range of the electric vehicle and is an eco-friendly way to recharge your batteries as you drive.

When the electric motor generates the power in the deceleration phase, it creates magnetic resistance. This resistance slows down the car and acts as a friction brake when you take your foot off the gas. While electric cars have hydraulic brakes just like cars with combustion engines, as well as brake lights that light up when you take your foot off the accelerator, most of the time you will be able to bring the car to a stop using only the regenerative braking system.

How to Adjust One-Pedal Driving on an Electric Vehicle

In some EVs and PHEVs, you can adjust the amount of regen braking that occurs when you take your foot off the gas pedal. This adjustment is usually done using a paddle lever on the steering wheel or a driving mode knob on the console or dashboard. You can make these adjustments to dial in the one-pedal operation and make it as comfortable for yourself as possible.

The methods of adjusting the one-pedal operation will differ depending on your car. On the Tesla Model Y, for example, you can change the amount of braking in the menu settings by selecting “creep,” “roll,” or “hold.” On the Ford F-150 Lightning, you can only turn the one-pedal driving mode on or off. Check your owner’s manual to see how you can adjust the regenerative braking on your specific vehicle.

Why Do People Like One-Pedal Driving?

One-pedal driving is generally popular but it isn’t going to be for everyone. However, most people who try it and take some time to get used to how it feels end up loving it. This is because it is easier to leave your right foot on one pedal instead of moving back and forth between the gas and the brake. With a little bit of practice, many drivers feel that it makes for a simpler, more comfortable driving experience.

People also like one-pedal driving because of how smooth it is. Because you are relying on the friction of the motor to bring the car to a stop, you can avoid the accidental sudden stops that can sometimes happen due to pressing too hard on the brake. If you are looking for comfortable drivability without jerking and stuttering at traffic lights, a one-pedal operation could be the right choice for you. However, if you need to stop suddenly in an emergency, you should always use the hydraulic brakes on your EV to ensure that you can stop in time.

Benefits of One-Pedal Driving

Extends Driving Range
One of the biggest benefits of owning an EV with one-pedal driving is the fact that it can extend the range of the battery pack. Every time you take your foot off the brake, the stopping energy is converted to power and acts as a charger. This means that you can drive farther without having to stop for a charge or limit where you can go.

Because one-pedal driving is such a common feature in electric vehicles, you may want to check and see if the range that has been published by the automaker takes this into account. When you are shopping for a new car, it is important that you understand the conditions under which the published range was calculated. If you turn off one-pedal driving, you may not get the same range as you would if it was turned on.

Increases Brake Life
Traditional hydraulic brakes use friction on brake pads to bring the vehicle to a stop. Because of this, the friction areas on the pads will eventually wear down and will need to be replaced every 10,000 to 20,000 miles. With regenerative braking, the pads don’t get used nearly as much. This extends the life of the brakes and cuts down on your yearly maintenance costs.

One-pedal driving can also make your electric car even more eco-friendly. Brake dust is a major pollutant from cars and can be even more harmful than emissions from the tailpipe. With regenerative braking, much less dust is produced and you can reduce your carbon footprint every time you drive.

One-pedal operation is incredibly convenient and can make for a much more pleasant driving experience. People who have this kind of braking system love how easy it is to bring the car to a stop without having to move their foot over to a separate pedal. It can reduce stress on your ankles and is especially good for commuters or people who put a lot of miles on their cars every year.

While one-pedal driving can be incredibly convenient, it can also be difficult to get used to. If you have been driving for a long time, you will most likely have the muscle memory of moving your foot over to the brake every time you want to stop. However, with a little bit of practice, you will probably find that it is a more comfortable way to drive.

Disadvantages of One-Pedal Driving

Insufficient for Emergency Braking
When using regenerative braking, you must recognize when you need to use your traditional hydraulic brakes. One-pedal braking will not stop the car quickly enough in an emergency and will usually only offer about 20 percent of the full braking power of the car. Should you find yourself in a situation where you need to stop fast, always be ready to hit your brake pedal.

This distinction is one of the things that people find the most difficult to adjust to when they first use one-pedal driving. Because of this, some EV drivers like to use a combination of hydraulic brakes and regenerative braking. Doing this will give you the confidence you need when driving in the city or on surface roads where quick braking is essential.

Harder to Coast
Many people don’t like one-pedal driving because it makes coasting difficult. When driving on the highway or on long trips, taking your foot off the gas when you are going downhill can help save gas and give your foot a rest. With regenerative braking, this becomes difficult since the car will begin stopping when you remove your foot from the accelerator.

While coasting can be more difficult with one-pedal driving, it is still possible. Once you get a feel for how much the car slows down when you ease off the accelerator, you can find the sweet spot needed to coast downhills. However, it will take some practice and you may have to adjust the amount of one-pedal operation.

Easy to Get too Comfortable
Perhaps the biggest downside of one-pedal driving is the fact that it can encourage you to get too comfortable when on the road. Using the traditional brakes allows you to feel connected to the car and to see it as an extension of yourself. The one-pedal operation takes this away to a certain degree and it can be easy to stop paying as much attention as you usually do.

The best way to avoid this is to make sure you are focusing on your driving as much as you would with a traditional car. For some people, this means using a combination of hydraulic brakes and regenerative brakes. Knowing what kind of driver you are and what you need in order to have your full attention on the road can help you strike the right balance.

Final Thoughts

With all the technology available for electric vehicles and all the great features they come with, there are so many reasons to switch over. Knowing how one-pedal driving works is a great way to get a full picture of how EVs and PHEVs contrast with traditional vehicles. Everyone’s driving style is different and by understanding how one-pedal driving might change the way you operate your car, you can decide whether it is right for you.