How does the Nissan e-Pedal work?

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

Simon Ostler
Dec 19, 2021

Consider how many electric cars are on sale today, and how many more will soon be available, and it’ll seem inconceivable that the first mainstream electric cars were filtering onto the scene little over a decade ago. The original Nissan Leaf was one of the pioneers, and a far more practical and more appealing proposition than something like the Peugeot iOn city car.

That there was no engine under the bonnet was novel enough, but the Leaf also ushered in a new way of driving that made the brake pedal redundant. And before you say it, it’s not because the car was as slow as a milk float.

It debuted the Nissan e-Pedal, a system that allows you to come to a calm stop by just lifting off the accelerator. Accessed by a switch on the dashboard, it’s an idea that has since been copied by nearly every manufacturer that makes electric cars. It not only saves energy but feels suitably futuristic too, although you can drive it like a normal car if you don’t have the e-Pedal mode engaged.

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 - it's 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 axles. 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.

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. You won't add hundreds of miles back into the battery, but it will certainly increase the range by a few miles.


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