Mazda has started off the new year with big news – the 2020 version of the MX-5 Miata roadster was officially announced by the company. This long-running Mazda design is getting a refresh with updated safety systems and new trim level choices. The biggest news, however, is the inclusion of Mazda's i-ELOOP and kinetic recovery stop-start systems. This regenerative braking technology will now be standard on all MX-5 models sold in Europe starting this year. The Miata joins a small but growing list of consumer passenger automobiles that employ regenerative braking systems in their designs.
What is regenerative braking?
While regenerative braking systems can extend the lifespan of brakes thanks to less wear and tear occurring on the brake pads, the true benefits of the technology lies in energy saving. Regenerative braking systems differ from traditional brakes thanks to the way they convert the motion of a vehicle and turns it into electrical power. Regenerative braking absorbs some of the excess energy released during the braking process and stores it in a battery or capacitor, resulting in the fuel cost of a braking maneuver being partially "refunded," according to US News and World Report. While this doesn't exactly turn a vehicle into a perpetual motion machine, it does help save gas or battery mileage, ensuring that cars equipped with these systems can drive farther while using less fuel.
These systems benefit city and suburban drivers the most. US World and News Report explains that regenerative systems function through the conversion of released energy from braking to further power for the car, so drivers who are routinely braking will see more of a benefit. For commuters that drive long distances where braking is an uncommon occurrence, such as on highways, there will be less opportunities for braking energy to be reabsorbed. Most energy on long drives will be expended by driving that cannot be reacquired.
Mazda's new foray
Braking systems that regenerate have existed for some time. For example, the technology was implemented in Formula One cars starting in 2008 in order to create competitive advantages in racing, as the systems reduced the number of necessary pit stops drivers had to make over the course of a race. Only recently, however, has the technology been placed in consumer automobiles. Only some newer, high end vehicles possess this technology, such as the Tesla Model 3 or higher-tier models of the Toyota Prius. Mazda's announcement of the MX-5's adoption of the technology is undoubtedly welcome news for those concerned about gas mileage.
Unlike most vehicles that currently feature regenerative braking, the 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata is not a hybrid, and is instead fully gasoline powered. Most cars with regen systems are hybrids because it allows the reabsorbed power to be easily put to use propelling the vehicle. In the Miata's case, however, the reabsorbed energy is placed in a capacitor that instead powers the cars' electronic systems, according to CNET. Fans of the Mazda roadster who are looking for a more environmentally conscious driving experience don't quite get the change they may have been hoping for. However, the efficiency gains brought upon by powering electronics in the vehicle through regenerative braking should not be understated, with Mazda stating that power efficiency boosts of up to 5% can be seen.
Owners of vehicles like the new 2020 MX-5 Miata will undoubtedly save money and time thanks to the increased efficiency that regenerative braking systems bring. However, regen systems do not make vehicles safer or reduce the risk of a collision in the event a sudden stop is necessary. Vehicle safety requires what has always been needed, high quality, responsive brakes that stand up to tough conditions and general wear and tear. Contact Greening Associates for a complimentary consultation to ensure they're in good working order and stay that way.