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One-Pedal Driving

Electric vehicles are becoming more common. Manufacturers are making strides in the range and efficiency of these vehicles, but are they safe? In this article, we discuss a feature on electric vehicles known as “one-pedal driving.”

What Is One-Pedal Driving?

One-pedal driving is a feature in electric vehicles (EVs) that allows the driver to control both acceleration and regenerative braking using only one pedal, typically the accelerator pedal. When the driver presses down on the accelerator pedal, the car accelerates as expected. However, when the driver releases the accelerator pedal, instead of coasting like in a traditional internal combustion engine vehicle, regenerative braking kicks in.

What Is Regenerative Braking?

Regenerative braking is a technology that converts the kinetic energy of the moving vehicle back into electrical energy, which is then used to recharge the battery. This slows down the vehicle, effectively allowing the driver to control deceleration without using the brake pedal.

In one-pedal driving mode, releasing the accelerator pedal rapidly slows down the vehicle, and in some cases, can even bring it to a complete stop. This allows an EV to recapture spent energy and reuse it.

Many electric vehicles offer one-pedal driving as an option, and some allow the driver to switch between traditional two-pedal mode (using both the accelerator and brake pedals) and one-pedal mode based on preference. One-pedal driving is seen as a user-friendly feature that simplifies the driving experience in electric cars.

Dangers Of One-Pedal Driving

One-pedal driving is a newer feature. As we see more vehicles with this feature, we also see some problems with how this technology is implemented.

No Warning For Other Drivers

One problem with one-pedal driving is the rapid deceleration without brake lights. On a traditional car, when the driver touches the brake pedal, the brake lights come on to alert drivers behind that the car is slowing or stopping. With one-pedal driving, some vehicles do not indicate the vehicle is slowing or stopping. This is like driving without brake lights. This video from Consumer Reports is a deep discussion of one-pedal driving without brake lights.

Consumer Reports discussion of one-pedal driving.

Rear-End Collision Hazard

Following too closely is a dangerous habit and is a cause of rear-end collisions. However, as the driver of an EV using one-pedal driving this feature could lead to an increased risk of rear-end collisions. If there are no brake lights to warn drivers while using one-pedal driving, a manufacturer may be partially or fully responsible for injuries sustained by the driver of the EV.

A Call For Changes To One-Pedal Driving

Consumer Reports (in June 2023) highlighted the dangers of one-pedal driving without brake lights. The magazine is quick to point out: “In spite of the potential safety hazard presented by the failure of brake lights to illuminate during one-pedal driving, the U.S. government doesn’t have an explicit standard regarding deceleration levels for activating brake lights.”

This lack of standards has led some electric vehicle manufacturers to ignore any implementation. Some manufacturers have understood the need and implemented brake lights during deceleration during one-pedal driving.

Current NHTSA Rules

Current rules only require brake lights to activate when a driver presses the brake pedal. While this is a topic the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to discuss with vehicle manufacturers, there are currently no plans to make a new rule for decelerating with one-pedal driving.

This article was written in August 2023. The information included in this article was current at the time it was written and may have changed since it was published.