How does the Nissan e-Pedal work?

The Nissan e-Pedal revolutionised the way we drive. But, what is it, and how does it work?

Simon Ostler
Sep 18, 2020

When it launched in 2010 the Nissan Leaf was the first mass-market electric car, and as a result it included a lot of features we had never seen before. Among them was the e-Pedal, a curious device that had the potential to change the way we drive. It was a by-product of the electric car in many ways, and one that has been copied in virtually every other electric car since, but seeing as Nissan patented the e-Pedal it's only the Leaf that uses this particular version.

The general idea with the e-Pedal is that you can place virtually all speed control into one pedal, meaning you can accelerate and decelerate using just your right foot. It was an entirely new way of driving when it first arrived, and unsurprisingly the verdict has been split among those who have driven with it. While it initially received a lot of criticism from conservative onlookers questioning how it would feel and how it would work, there was a gradual wave of acceptance as more and more people actually got to drive the Leaf.

So how does the Nissan e-Pedal work? Well, for starters, it's not a pedal, merely a switch on the dashboard that, if you turn it on, changes the function of the accelerator pedal. You put your foot down like you would in a normal car, and you start moving. Take your foot off the pedal, however, and you'll feel the car start to decelerate at a more extreme rate than a normal car, and eventually you will stop - it's a similar sensation to slow and gentle progressive braking - the e-Pedal will even hold you still on a hill.

This deceleration comes as a result of the battery harvesting energy from the turning axels. When you accelerate with the e-Pedal, the electric motor powers the wheels and the car starts to move, when you take your foot off the pedal, that system turns into reverse. The momentum in the wheels goes back into the motor, which then sends that energy back into the battery. It's very clever, and helps the battery to last longer before you need to charge again.

When the e-Pedal is switched on, the accelerator will become much stiffer, meaning you get a much stronger feel with your right foot which can allow you to be more precise with your inputs - it's clever, because you'd otherwise find yourself constantly lurching as the car accelerated and braked with every slight movement.

What's it like to drive with the e-Pedal?

The e-Pedal takes a few miles to get used to, you may find initially that the braking power when you lift off the accelerator is much stronger than you'd bargained for, but after a few minutes this new sensation goes away and it's very easy to get a feel for how the car reacts to your input.

It's at this point that the Nissan Leaf becomes a real joy to drive. Getting the right balance on the pedal makes it feel so much more engaging, you're under constant - and instant - control which can make it possible to complete full journeys without having to ever use the actual brake pedal - yes, the Leaf does have a brake pedal for emergency braking - although it's worth noting the brakes also become much stiffer with the e-Pedal switched on.

You can, however, ignore the e-Pedal completely, and drive the Nissan Leaf like you would any other electric car. The fact it is an entirely optional gadget is the biggest positive about it, so anyone who would rather stick to what they know can do so without a problem.

It's also worth noting that lifting off when the e-Pedal is switched on will cause the brake lights to illuminate, so you won't be catching fellow drivers unawares with any sudden deceleration.

Do other electric cars use the e-Pedal?

The e-Pedal itself is patented by Nissan, so it is only the Leaf that makes use of that particular tech. There are many other electric cars such as the BMW i3 now available however that use similar technology to regenerate energy when you lift off the throttle.

Why use the e-Pedal?

Aside from the fact it makes driving the Nissan Leaf more engaging, the e-Pedal is used to give the car energy via regenerative braking. This is where energy created during braking or decelerating with the e-Pedal is recycled back into the batteries to recharge them. As a result, using the e-Pedal has the potential to give you more electric range.


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