By on July 20, 2017

2018 Nissan Leaf [Image: Nissan]

What’s an e-Pedal? No, it’s not some dorky electric bicycle built by Ford, though that scenario doesn’t sound far fetched.

As the steady decline of manual transmission availability brings the three-pedal lifestyle ever-closer to oblivion, the e-Pedal is Nissan’s way of sending the two-pedal setup a step closer to obsolescence. Will cars in the heady, electrically powered future contain just one pedal? Maybe. Maybe not. But starting late this year, one Nissan model will allow drivers the choice of accelerating and braking with just one pedal.

Details of the second-generation Leaf, due for a September 6th reveal, have trickled out of Nissan ever since it realized the kind of buzz an automaker can generate by going the Dodge Demon route. Oh, there’ll be a shapely new body, semi-autonomous driving capability, even headlights! After languishing on the market as rivals passed it by, the increasingly outdated EV also adds a far greater range for its second generation.

Now, Nissan promises a brake pedal designed to gather dust. The brand’s new e-Pedal, found in the 2018 Leaf, allows — with the push of a button — the ability to speed up, slow down, and hold a stop via the pedal on the right.

Nissan Leaf e-Pedal, Image: Nissan

Minus the sporting abilities of high-zoot models, it’s hardly wowing driving an EV. The vehicles creep forward when in Drive, just like an automatic-equipped internal combustion model. At speed, an EV loses momentum when the driver eases off the accelerator, albeit more quickly, thanks to regenerative coasting. In some cases, such as in the defunct Tesla Roadster, the braking effect while coasting is extreme. For the next Leaf, Nissan ups the regeneration to the degree that it can stop the car on its own, and quickly, after lifting off the “gas.”

Of course, that’s if the driver chooses to. The boring old brake pedal still exists for those weirded out by the trick e-Pedal, but it’s clear where Nissan’s enthusiasm lies. Perhaps even its intentions.

While the Leaf’s new do-everything pedal is indeed an advancement, it’s hardly revolutionary. It simply goes further than past efforts. Chevrolet’s all-electric Bolt offers enhanced braking effect when the transmission is in Low, and a steering column-mounted “regen paddle” goes a step further, bringing the car to a stop in certain situations. Of course, lifting off the accelerator is easier than holding down a paddle, and the Leaf’s setup hold the car at rest, even on hills.

“Drivers can cover 90% of their driving needs with the e-Pedal, making the process of driving more exciting,” the automaker stated in a release. “In heavy traffic and during city commutes, drivers will greatly reduce the need to shift from one pedal to the other, making your drive simpler and more engaging.”

One assumes the brake lights shine the moment drivers lift off the throttle while in e-Pedal mode. That’s likely the case, as General Motors saw some backlash from the Bolt’s brake lamps staying dark during heavy braking-coasting. Still, it remains to be seen whether the e-Pedal system activates the taillights earlier in the process, at a certain tipping point in braking effort, and whether the existence of an actual brake pedal ends up confusing drivers in emergency situations.

[Image: Nissan]

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42 Comments on “Nissan Tries to Make the Brake Pedal Obsolete in Next-gen Leaf...”

  • avatar

    So the Leaf will have an “accelerator” pedal based upon the design of a Coney Island bumper car.

    Got it.

    • 0 avatar

      That, or Pangolina:

    • 0 avatar

      I was thinking lawnmower with hydrostatic drive. May as well go all the way and make the bottom half of the pedal have you go in reverse. Now you can get rid of the pesky drive select knob thingy.

  • avatar

    1. I wonder how panic braking will work? Letting off the pedal fast? Sensors similar to the ones used for advanced cruise control and auto-braking?

    2. I also wonder how they will deal with the g forces involved in hard stopping. Today, if I mash the brake my body weight goes forward, pushing harder on the pedal. With this setup it seems that would cause less brake/possibly acceleration.

    I assume Nissan has thought of these, but the info graph is light on the details.

    • 0 avatar

      I assume it will work the same as usual, take foot off accelerator and slam brake.

      But it is an interesting question, if those who are accustomed to driving with one pedal will retain the muscle memory to switch quickly to the brake with the appropriate modulation.

      I have a current-generation Leaf, and in normal driving conditions seldom need to use the brake. Even then I’ll attest that it sometimes feels slightly odd to switch from the re-gen deceleration to the brake when I time the reaction of the car in front of me incorrectly. Initially I tend to brake either too much or not enough.

    • 0 avatar

      My problem, what if I want to reset my foot. With dedicated pedal I can lift and push again. And what about cruise control? – What to push for emergency while on cruise?

  • avatar

    “Nissan Tries to Make itself Obsolete with Next-gen Leaf”

    There fixed it for you.
    You can thank me later.

  • avatar

    Basically, it behaves like a hydrostatic transmission on the large majority of Lawn tractors and now many utility tractors. The brake pedal is a backup for panic stops. The only time I touch the brake pedal on lawn mower is to start it as is required to be depressed to start the mower. If one uses this type of equipment then I would expect this to not be much of a learning curve assuming it behaves similarly.

    • 0 avatar

      If the Leaf comes with collision avoidance standard, I am going to speculate the system would look at what the camera/sensors see and if there is an obstruction would translate, “pedal to the floor probably didn’t mean full speed ahead into the side of an 18 wheeler, you likely meant to stop.”

      I’m speculating.

      I can easily see this not ending well with a driver who is in transition. Habituated just enough to not have to “think” about single pedal use but not so experienced that the automatic response in the brain of, lift foot, bring foot left 8 inches, press other pedal as hard as I can in event of emergency,” is crosswired with either, “lift foot to stop, magic,” or worse, “press pedal to floor, PRESS PEDAL TO FLOOR NOW!”

      To Quote MiB I: “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.”

  • avatar

    This would help cure those accidents where someone hits the gas pedal while they wanted to brake. It IS counterintuitive to press on a pedal to both proceed and stop.

    Hybrids and ev’s are equipped with a creep mode to simulate a normal automatic.

    So far as I know hybrids and ev’s, which are pretty well normally front wheel drive, apply the rear brakes a little when the brake pedal is pushed. This is for stability since regeneration, when activated by pushing the brake pedal, only regens with the front wheels. The more aggressive the regen, the more it is like having brakes on the front wheels only. Which is basically unstable.

    Regen is with the front wheels only, so any braking using the rear mechanical brakes is wasted energy. People quickly found their mileage was better if they maximized regen and minimized using the brake pedal. Then they found they liked slowing down without using the brake pedal. So the manufacturers increasingly equipped electrified cars to do this.

    The brake pedal should stay just to accommodate hitting the “brake” pedal in a panic stop out of habit, and for drivers not accustomed to the new setup. Imagine needing to stop suddenly and slamming your foot into a bare firewall.

    But, the cars will have to use the rear mechanical brakes as the liftoff braking becomes more aggressive, for stability. Maybe equip the rear wheels for regen. And presumably there is a limit to the rate at which batteries can accept charge.

    • 0 avatar

      @brandloyalty – if one wants to drive smoothly and conserve brakes and fuel, that does mean staying off the brakes as much as possible even in an ICE powered vehicle. I found that adopting hypermiling techniques was rather easy since driving on icy roads and/or towing/hauling heavy loads uses similar strategies.

  • avatar

    Interesting timing. I was golfing the other day and remarked how the energy re-capture brought the cart to a stop on a steep downhill. No brakes required.

    I test drove a Bolt with the regen paddle on the steering wheel. The paddle is used when calling for extra regenerative braking power above and beyond the standard regen mode.

    It truly feels like you are stepping on the brake pedal. A panic stop would require the regular brakes, but the regen paddle could conceivably replace normal braking in a lot of situations.

    It will be a very long time before the traditional hydraulic braking system is replaced, but you could conceivably cut a lot of cost by re-designing the system for less frequent use. Thinner pads, thinner rotors, etc.

  • avatar

    It seems like the electronic car segment is some sort of weird retrofuture, rediscovering all of the old techniques people have used for decades to make driving more pleasurable and efficient. People who drive manual transmissions try to avoid the brake pedal to reduce the number of shifts, and they’ve been downshifting on downhill slopes since the car was invented to save their brakes.

    Admittedly, that’s still a two pedal world, but the industry is just remixing old paradigms and calling it a bright new future. It’s nice that we have new energy recapture equipment, rather than just spinning up the flywheel with downshifts, but whatever.

  • avatar

    No. Just no.

    3 pedal or 2, coasting off pedal is an important part of smooth driving. How will one find the “coast” position on an e-pedal.

    This will be one herky jerky ride.

    28, are you reading? This is why we cant have nice things. 2 pedals and PRNDL work just fine for an automatic trans, but Nissan and Chevy insists on redefining the pedals, and every other maker must come up with some counter-intuitive-but-saves-2 in^2 -of console-space-allegedly shifter. Everyone and his dog insists in ruining human-machine interaction at the alter of “cutting edge” and “luxury”.

    TLDR Dave is grumpy today.

    • 0 avatar

      It won’t take that long to figure it out. I know it didn’t take long for me to get used to driving a hybrid and finding the throttle position that allowed for coasting, ie enough throttle to stay out of reg braking but not enough to cause the system to add energy either from the battery or the ICE.

      • 0 avatar

        I believe that we as humans can adapt, but to me its a question of proper UI design. Coasting/mild engine braking should be a zero control input situation (in my opinion of course)

        • 0 avatar

          My thoughts exactly Dave. I drove a rental Prius for a while. I very much didn’t like what felt like “hard engine breaking” whenever I relaxed my foot. With my own car, there are basically three modes while moving forward: foot on gas pedal, foot off gas pedal, and clutch to the floor.

          I think the non-California-compliant BMW i3 has a user-settable right pedal. It would be interesting what people outside the US think of it and wind up choosing a for their setting.

          Personally, I think cars should actually have *FOUR* pedals. I had a (totally US model) Mercedes 300E with four pedals. The parking break release was a pull knob for the left hand so that you could hold ground while starting going uphill.

    • 0 avatar

      Or, people could just start using Adaptive Cruise Control more.

      I use it all the time with my Tesla since it can see the vehicle 2 cars ahead with it’s radar, it adjusts speed fairly smoothly in most circumstances.

      As a side bonus it keeps me from getting speeding tickets, since the city I live in has decided to give photo radar tickets for 6+ km/h over the posted limit.

    • 0 avatar

      It already exists to an extent. The Prius has a special hill descend mode, which you can use in all driving conditions if you prefer. It makes the off throttle energy recapture more aggressive. The goal to hybrid developers is to use energy recapture for braking as much as possible. If the energy recapture and tradition braking are on the same pedal, efficiency is dependent upon the driver’s input. Perhaps they think that keeping acceleration and engine braking on the accelerator pedal will make driver’s more efficient.

      Anyway, I’m quite certain they will never get rid of the brake pedal completely. The lawsuits would be too great.

      • 0 avatar

        Prius “B” mode does not, as I recall, regen AT ALL.

        You’d think it should…

        • 0 avatar

          “Prius “B” mode does not, as I recall, regen AT ALL.”

          Where do you get this information? My belief is that B mode increases the degree of regenetation when you lift off the throttle.

          The equivalent on the Escape Hybrid is the “L” shift position. When you shift from D to L while coasting, you can see both the revs and the charge rate increase.

          On a very long steep descent, the hybrid battery will charge to capacity before the bottom. At that point charging ceases and you have to use the brake pedal and the mechanical brakes to retard speed. Leaving it in L still helps retard speed by turning the engine faster than in D. And therefore saves the brakes compared to being in D.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    The Volt also has the brake paddle on the steering wheel, and has since its advent.

    • 0 avatar

      “…and has since its advent.”

      No, Kyree, the first-gen Volt 2010-2015 (I own a 2015) only has the “L” position on the console shifter that maximizes regen. The steering wheel “paddle” was introduced in the 2016 Volt.

  • avatar

    “In heavy traffic and during city commutes, drivers will greatly reduce the need to shift from one pedal to the other, making your drive simpler and more engaging.”

    Finally, I won’t have to move my foot three inches to the left. That has always been a very strenuous part of driving and really ruins the driving experience.

    • 0 avatar

      I use it now (the predecessor – B Mode) in heavy traffic and you’d be surprised how much easier it makes driving. You modulate it to synchronize with the stop and go traffic in front of you. The new version improves it by giving you the ability to completely stop the car if needed – which does still happen. Now I have to move to the brake pedal. It took me a while to pick up the skills, but it is really nice once you get the hang of it. Also saves brake pads.

  • avatar

    The BMW i3 has a very aggressive regen function when letting off the throttle pedal – so I don’t see how this is different unless they do away with the brake pedal entirely. Everyone I know with an i3 loves the “one pedal” operation once they get used to it.

    • 0 avatar

      For me, it’s a good transition between my EV and my manual transmission cars. The feel is similar to engine braking in a manual and I sort of use my manual transmission heavy stop and go traffic driving technique when using the EV in one pedal mode.

  • avatar

    I expect pedal to the floor would mean maximum acceleration and, eventually, top speed. Foot off the pedal would mean maximum braking. Coasting would require a pedal position somewhere in between. It would take some adjustment but it’s fundamentally no different from applying the proper accelerator pedal pressure to maintain a selected speed.

  • avatar

    One pedal is not new concept. Pangolina had that in 1980.

  • avatar

    Nissan= great engineering, simplicity over complexity. Precision over mass production.

    Their solution for break assist technology was simple and ground breaking. Just a internal mod to the master cyl is all that was needed. Benz came out with a complicated affair, modifying the master cyl and adding another computer.

    Go Nissan!

  • avatar

    Heck even an overly sensitive throttle can throw me off, makes the ride kind of jerky on a bumpy road. How do you handle it when you have two or three different vehicles, muscle memory doesn’t work that way.

    • 0 avatar

      @spamvw: I have an earlier version of the e-pedal in my Leaf. It is a little bit of a problem my automatic transmission car. I let up expecting the car to slow down -then oh crap. The manuals aren’t a problem because it feels just like engine braking.

  • avatar

    This will NOT end well with valet parking.

  • avatar

    It’s so Audi 5000

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    Mercedes did it first. The first-gen SBC-equipped cars (W211 E-Class, R230 SL and all Maybachs) had a function that was later deleted by a software update, but it would put the SBC into a mode where you could drive only by using the throttle. It was interesting, basically accelerating worked normally, and the speed with you lifted your foot from the accelerator determined how hard the car would brake. I did not see much use for it in normal circumstances, but in stop-and-go traffic I thought it to be a godsend, first you aren’t blinding the following traffic with brakelights, second with minimal practice you could absolve the nicest stops.

  • avatar

    At least the kids growing up with a Power Wheels vehicle will find it very familiar!

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