Paddle shifters take on new meaning in the Cadillac ELR, the brand’s first electric vehicle with extended range capability that goes on sale in early 2014.
Unlike traditional performance vehicles where the steering wheel-mounted paddles allow drivers to upshift and downshift the mechanical transmission, Cadillac ELR’s paddle shifters enable the driver to temporarily regenerate energy and store it as electricity in the battery pack for later use.
ELR’s Regen on Demand feature is unique to the compact luxury coupe and builds on Cadillac’s performance-bred heritage.
“Regen on Demand enables ELR drivers to actively re-capture energy when slowing down, such as when approaching slower traffic or setting up for a tight turn,” said Chris Thomason, ELR chief engineer. “This allows the driver to take more active role in the electric vehicle driving experience.”
To engage Regen on Demand, the driver simply takes his or her foot off the accelerator and pulls back on either the left or right steering-wheel paddle to begin regenerating electricity. When engaged, Regen on Demand provides vehicle deceleration that is more than what a typical vehicle experiences while coasting, providing control and dynamic performance characteristics similar to downshifting in a manual-transmission vehicle. The feature does not bring the vehicle to a full stop.
Releasing the paddle disengages Regen on Demand, allowing the vehicle to coast normally. The driver can engage and disengage Regen on Demand as desired and as traffic conditions allow.
“Pulling back on the paddle to slow down allows the ELR driver to keep their foot close to the throttle, ready to accelerate,” Thomason said. “It provides a more engaged, satisfying driving experience, and when you consider the added benefit of re-capturing energy, it’s also a smart thing to do.”
During regenerative braking, the system converts the vehicle’s momentum to electrical power and stores the energy in the T-shaped battery pack located along the centerline of the vehicle, between the front and rear wheels for optimal weight distribution.
The pack supplies energy to an advanced electric drive unit capable of 295 lb-ft of instant torque (400 Nm) to propel the vehicle. Using only the energy stored in the battery, the ELR will deliver an estimated range of about 35 miles (56 km) of pure electric driving, depending on terrain, driving techniques and temperature.
ELR includes a blended regenerative braking system that will recapture a majority of the energy in a vehicle’s momentum rather than losing it as heat in the brakes, which is common with conventional vehicles. When the brakes are applied, energy is recaptured, as the vehicle slows. If more brake force is applied, ELR automatically blends in friction brakes to apply greater stopping power for more urgent stops.
The system has a standard 4-channel anti-lock braking system and includes electronic Brake Force Distribution, which uses independent rear control for improved stability and braking during cornering, as well as more effective use of the rear brakes as vehicle loading occurs. Also, the disc brake system features vented front and solid rear Duralife rotors with Ferritic Nitro-Carburizing (FNC) finishing technology to reduce corrosion and deliver longer life.
Charging the ELR’s battery can be done with a 120V electrical outlet or a dedicated 240V charging station. The vehicle can be completely recharged in about 4.5 hours using a 240V outlet, depending on the outside temperature.