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What Is Regenerative Braking in Commercial Electric Vehicles?

There are hidden benefits from technologies like regenerative braking when electrifying commercial vehicles (CVs) and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs).

What Commercial Electric Vehicles Are Available in the UK, in 2024?

In this blog, we explain more about regenerative braking for electric truck fleets, including: 

  • How regenerative braking works 
  • The key benefits of regenerative braking  

 

Heavy goods vehicles are vital to keeping goods on the shelves for consumers and maintaining effective supply chains for industry. Unfortunately, internal combustion engine (ICE) trucks are also major polluters. 

As a result, many fleet operators are already preparing to adopt e-trucks. In fact, HSBC’s Transition Pathways survey found that logistics companies are increasing their spending on net zero initiatives. The report shows that 43% expect to allocate at least a tenth of their capital expenditure towards decarbonisation in the coming years, compared to 29% of those surveyed in 2023.  

Fleet operators cited switching to EVs and improving energy efficiency as the most common initiatives taken by logistics businesses to cut their Scope 1 and 2 emissions. It is likely that these first adopters will gain an advantage in what is a highly competitive market. However, if you want to join them, it is important to understand how to optimise the efficiency of battery-powered HGVs. 

Regenerative braking, also known as ‘regen braking’, makes all-electric vans and trucks even more efficient. This helps to extend EV range, reduce maintenance/repair costs, and make deliveries greener. Making the most of regenerative braking can have a substantial impact on operating costs for hauliers and logistics providers.  

 

How does regenerative braking in HGVs work?

 

HGVs have different and more complex brake systems to cars, for obvious reasons. In a car, when you push down the brake pedal, this creates hydraulic pressure in the master cylinder. This in turn sends pressurised brake fluid along the brake pipes each wheel’s hub assembly. Here the fluid activates pistons that enable the brake pads. 

On an HGV, there are also auxiliary braking systems. These are needed because they do not overheat as quickly as car-style brakes during prolonged use – for example, when a truck is going downhill. This reduces risk of brake failure as well as wear and tear. 

However, an electric truck has an even better system – regenerative braking. 

Regenerative braking systems use electric motors rather than a traditional friction braking system to slow down and stop the vehicle.

 

Regenerative braking works by reversing the electric motor that propels the vehicle. This means that the motor goes from consuming energy to feeding it back into the batteries. As soon as you take your foot off the accelerator, the regen kicks in.  

Although regenerative brakes work very differently than friction brakes, they achieve the same goal. And the brake lights still illuminate when using regenerative braking, so other road users are aware you are slowing down. 

Drivers should be aware that regen does not provide the same rapid deceleration as conventional friction brakes, so is not suitable for using at high speeds when you need to brake quickly. But for stop-start urban operations, it is perfect. 

What Commercial Electric Vehicles Are Available in the UK, in 2024?

Key benefits of regenerative braking for fleets

 

You can already see the main benefit of regenerative braking for fleet vehicles – energy efficiency.  

In a traditional hydraulic braking system, every time you use the brakes it wastes energy. This is because it takes the kinetic energy that is propelling your vehicle and turns it into heat. While this method is effective at slowing down a moving vehicle, that energy is lost. With regenerative braking, the energy is repurposed, which is much more efficient. 

Electric car drivers report that regenerative braking can increase the range of their vehicles by up to 20%. This means that if you had an EV with a 100-mile range on a full battery charge, proper use of regenerative braking extends it to 120 miles.  

For logistics operators, this equates to significant savings. Electric trucks are already cheaper to ‘fuel’ than diesel HGVs. However, if you can extend a truck’s range by 20% without having to refill the batteries, this means that your cost per mile reduces even further. 

Another key benefit is that regenerative braking means you are not using the vehicle’s conventional brakes as much, which minimises brake system wear. This means lower service, maintenance and repair (SMR) costs. 

Electric trucks represent a significant investment, as they come with a higher price tag than diesel HGVs. However, if you implement the right vehicles and charging infrastructure, and make use of technologies like regenerative braking, fleet managers can enjoy significant savings both financially and environmentally. 

Sources  

1 – https://uk.mer.eco/ev-fleet-charging/ev-charging-hgvs-and-commercial-evs/  

2 – https://www.business.hsbc.com/en-gb/insights/sustainability/electrifying-the-last-mile   

3 – https://uk.mer.eco/news/what-commercial-electric-vehicles-hgvs-are-available-uk-2024/ 

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