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Next Stop for brakes

The move to electric vehicles (EVs) is going to change more than just the way we drive. It will change the way we brake, too. 

For EVs, squeezing the maximum range out of the smallest battery is a crucial challenge. It means maximising efficiency in every area. One way to do that is by reducing unwanted friction, including from, for example, pad/disc contact due to disc imperfections. 

So engineers are looking for ways – such as new designs for brake calipers – to make sure the pad has less chance of making contact when not braking. 

Another issue of growing importance is brake noise, because electric vehicles are so much quieter than today’s cars. Since brakes work on friction, it is difficult to prevent all audible vibrations, but manufacturers are looking into ways of overcoming friction vibration and brake squeal. 

The last area where vehicle and brake manufacturers are investigating new solutions is the way brakes will be used. 

Because electric cars rely on deceleration to recharge their batteries, they want to use it as much as possible to brake. That means brakes will be used less, and will need less pressure to apply them because much of the slowing down will already have been done. This throws up engineering challenges. 

For example, the brakes will be more likely to corrode, and the corrosion will be harder to remove during normal braking. This could lead straight back to noise and inefficiency issues. With a long time between brake applications, there’s also the need to be sure that the friction is high enough, stable enough and reliably available when required, which could demand new materials for pads or discs. 

This all means that electric vehicles are going to need brakes specially developed to meet their specific needs. And you’ll not only need the brake knowledge and skills you have now, but you might need to learn some new stuff too.