Improving the Single-pedal Control Concept (Idea stolen from BMW i3)

Improving the Single-pedal Control Concept (Idea stolen from BMW i3)

The BMW i3 has an interesting feature which could be added to the Model S with a simple software update.

In slower (city) traffic, the accelerator pedal works in regenerative mode. When you let go of the pedal, the car "brakes", which means that you hardly ever have to touch the brake pedal. This single-pedal control is a very efficient way of driving with a single foot in start-stop type of traffic. (Although I know that some people don't like it. You can disable this feature in a MS).

However, at higher speeds (highway), the accelerator pedal works in coasting mode. When you let go of the pedal, the car simply coasts, as if you would have put it it in neutral. This allows for a more natural flow and more relaxed driving on highways. You can lift your foot of the pedal and relax you muscles, while loosing a minimal amount of energy built up by inertia (braking would be counter-productive in those circumstances).

The speed-sensitive accelerator pedal certainly would be something to get used to (now it brakes, now it doesn't). But what's your take on this feature? Should Tesla add it? Why or why not?

negarholger | July 22, 2013

It is there... what to add?
Single pedal driving is one of model S charms... make it more complicated? Write a rule book ? Neeeh...

Winnie796 | July 22, 2013

Are you sure BMW didn't steal the single pedal idea from Tesla? Their cars have had this feature for years.

chrisdl | July 22, 2013

@Winnie: BMW may very well have stolen in from Tesla. However, BMW has an interesting and new take on the concept (an improvement, if you wish). Read my full post above.

negarholger | July 22, 2013

@chrisdl - what is the improvement? Coasting at higher speed ? How to I get my energy back going down hill? Add a paddle shifter ? To complicated - KISS ! If I want to coast I use the cruise control...
Probably someone at corporate BMW got an award to come up with this useless feature.

moorelin | July 22, 2013

Definitely not an improvement - have you driven the MS? At highway speeds it does not slam on the brakes when you take your foot off the accelerator, but does regenerate. Works great for me.

Docrob | July 22, 2013

If you want highway coasting use the cruise control. If I don't have cruise control on and I take my foot off the accelerator at highway speeds it's because I want to slow down.

Jamon | July 22, 2013

I agree with Docrob (and others). When I'm on the highway and want to keep going, I keep my foot on the accelerator. When my foot comes off the accelerator, I want to slow down. The Model S works very well this way, and I would not want it to change. Keep it simple!

However, I would like an option for heavier regen braking. I hate when I have to hit the brakes and waste energy!

negarholger | July 22, 2013

It is amazing how much the BMW engineers ( and others ) are entrenched in the ICE culture. What they haven't realized is that an EV doesn't require all these complicated procedures... like hold the car with the accelerator at a hill stop in SF - no double footing, press the gas pedal and then release the break... not needed, the engine has plenty of torque at zero rpm to hold the car at the steepest hill - true single pedal driving. GM, Ford, BMW,... engineers wake up before it is too late.

shop | July 22, 2013

If you coast at highway speeds how do you slow down, then? Hit the brakes? What a waste of energy. No, the model S works great the way it is. If you want to give your foot a rest, simply engage the cruise control.

KendallPB | July 22, 2013

I'm not in favor of the car acting wildly differently at different speeds. Also you can coast, if you pay a bit more attention to the power use/regen bar in the cash; you simply don't take your foot ALL the way off. And of course, as moorelin says, it doesn't slam on the brakes anyway--it's a certain amount, so the faster you're moving, the smaller percentage of how fast you're moving that braking feel is. (Did that make sense?)

KendallPB | July 22, 2013

P.S. is your friend; I'm pretty sure I've read this suggestion here before. ;-)

chrisdl | July 23, 2013

A few people seem to indicate that applying the brakes in a Tesla is an immediate waste of energy. That's not the case. The MS has regenerative braking which works (optionally) when you let go of the accelerator pedal AND (always) when you put pressure on the brake pedal.

The disc brakes of the car will only be used if insufficient deceleration can be accomplished by the generator (i.e. the engine in reverse).

Docrob | July 23, 2013

hmm, are you certain of that? I have never heard of regenerative braking being linked to the brake pedal in any way, mu understanding is regenerative braking is linked to accelerator release and the brake pedal controls the friction brake only.

chrisdl | July 23, 2013

@Kendall Thanks for the link to volkerize! I didn't know that yet.
Indeed it has been suggested before:

Happy to know that I'm not the only one who thinks this may be a useful addition.

If Tesla wanted to KISS they wouldn't have added the Creep option either, right. Personally, I think that the car should work optimally in whichever way you choose to drive it. Since not all drivers have the same driving style, optional settings to adjust to your personal style have nothing to do with making things complicated. In fact, the MS is the ultimate car in adapting to driver's wishes. It is a no-compromise EV, which is what makes it so attractive to so many people.

negarholger | July 23, 2013

@chrisdl - it doesn't work that way. If you hit the brake pedal it creates heat only, but zero electricity goes back into the battery.

negarholger | July 23, 2013

@chrisdl - I have no problem if Tesla adds features to suit your driving style, but don't sell it as an "improvement" when it is actualy a band aid to help you/me to transtion to EV. Creep is the prime example of such a band aid to help the transition.

negarholger | July 23, 2013

@chrisdl - you are getting a lot of ??? here. I started out driving the MS like my previous car, but learned that many thing came be approached much simpler in the MS then any ICE. Now I just love the simple precise control you have driving this car - no ICE comes even close.

chrisdl | July 23, 2013

@Docrob You are right! I am surprised to learn this, but it is true. Unlike other EVs, Tesla's brake pedal only controls the friction brakes.

So now I also understand why Tesla can't copy this i3 feature.

If the brake pedal would use fancy logic to distribute the power between regen and friction, it would be a great option. But it doesn't, so it isn't.

chrisdl | July 23, 2013

@Kleist I don't see this as a band-aid to transition from anything. Why are you thinking that it would be?

To me, this feature would be an optimization of the energy usage. Pressing/lifting the accelerator or using the cruise control are certainly very practical alternatives, albeit less energy efficient when at higher speeds. Note, again, that this is for higher speeds only, where it costs a lot of energy to regain lost speed due to drag. However, since I now learned how the brakes of an MS work, the point is moot.

Anyway, I think the answer of Tesla-owners is clear: 1) keep it simple, 2) we don't see the point of that feature.

Thanks for the input, all who answered.

Docrob | July 23, 2013

Please explain how Tesla's current solution of one footed driving where full regenerative braking only requires the complete removal of the foot off the accelerator is "less energy efficient at higher speeds". What you are suggesting makes the system no more energy efficient it just means to get the most out of regenerative braking you must use two pedals instead of the current one pedal solution. What you propose is no more energy efficient and certainly more complicated then the current system. The only "benefit" is making the model S marginally more "ICE like" by braking less when the accelerator is let off on.

chrisdl | July 23, 2013

In coasting mode power is regenerated to nor consumed from the battery. The vehicle rolls freely and gradually loses speed due to drag. Every meter you drive while coasting is a zero-operation. You could coast when nearing a freeway exit, for example.

Controlling the engine/generator with your right foot is typically less efficient (at high speeds!) since either you give a bit of power to the engine or you lift off a bit, causing a tiny sawtooth power/regen/power/regen/... cycle. At high speed, the power required to accelerate even a single km/h is much higher than a low speed due to drag. This makes the power/regen cycles less efficient than at low speeds. In practice, most drivers will "spill" more energy that way. If you have a steady right foot, this may not apply to you.

Obviously, the above only makes sense if you also regen energy while braking, which the MS doesn't. Therefore, moot point, as I said before.

It is much more complicated, that I certainly agree with! And yes, you'd have to use two pedals, but you'd have the option of using "no pedal" (at high speeds).

It'll be interesting to learn how it works in practice in the BMW i3. Not that the i3 is really suitable for highways, as far as I can tell. But that's another story.

bigbit | July 23, 2013

I'm awayting production on my baby so don't kill me over my ignorance....

I was wondering about this issue too, can someone explain to me (in simple english since i'm Dutch) is it possible to put the S in neutral? (I am doing this on my ICE). Is it more efficient to regen than to let it coast of a freeway exit for example. Wouldn't it be even more efficient if the S would regen more aggressively if i press the brakes lightly and only use the friction brakes of i push harder?

I trust they have given it serious thought, but i wonder....


eddiemoy | July 23, 2013

I think it is overly complicated. An accident waiting to happen. Hope tesla never does this!

DFibRL8R | July 23, 2013

Yes you can shift to neutral while driving. As far as efficiency, there is a loss in the regen process, you can't recapture all of the kinetic energy as potential energy in the battery. That said, it seems overly complicated (dangerous) to be making multiple adjustments while exiting a freeway just to maximize efficiency of the vehicle. I personally love the regen, rarely touch the brake and have learned how to use the accelerator to find the sweet spot and "coast" when I want to.

Brian H | July 23, 2013

What you seem to be missing is that while braking your foot is also necessarily off the goose pedal entirely, and thus providing maximum regen. The braking is just adding some friction.

At moderate or more speed, no more regen can be added once your foot is off the goose pedal; the system is providing all that can be handled.

Further, the screen displays flow to/from the battery at all times, so the saw-tooth is easy to minimize.

chrisdl | July 23, 2013

I'm sorry that I'm not able to express myself any better.

I'm fully aware of what you are saying, Brian. I simply didn't mention that because it's obvious to me. It's always risky to assume that people know or understand things which appear obviously to yourself, so my mistake for not being clearer. Apologies.

cloroxbb | July 23, 2013


People also, have already stated, that "no pedal" driving, at high speeds is already taken care of on the Model S by using cruise control.

How often do you really need to "coast" on the highway though? The only reason to slow down, would be if traffic in front of you is slowing down, and at that moment, you could just use regen to gain some energy back rather than coasting until you are too close and then have to use the friction brakes... That is just my opinion though.

negarholger | July 23, 2013

+1 DFibRL8R - it is very easy to find the coasting spot. For folks who are not driving the MS every day it is very hard to imagine how well Tesla designed the drive train and the fine control it allows you. I am looking forward to test drive the I3 and B class next year... see how well the big guys did.

PBEndo | July 23, 2013

I'd actually prefer a higher level of regen. I'd entertain the idea of having a toe strap or click-in binding like cyclists that would allow you to pull back on the pedal for extra regen braking!

AmpedRealtor | July 23, 2013

The way I understand it, whenever you take your foot off the accelerator pedal the car goes into regen mode. If you tap the brake, it is still regenerating (no foot on accelerator) in addition to having friction brakes applied. If this is true, then you already have the best of all possible worlds - a separate friction brake that you can use in addition to regen, or just regen alone (no brake), or no regen (depress accelerator). In this manner, you can best manage regen and friction braking in a manual, satisfying way rather than have the car and computer do it for you automatically like it's done in other vehicles.

If you need to coast, just keep your foot on the accelerator to the point where you are neither using nor regenerating energy and are at a net zero. That is coasting. Is your foot sore and just want to let go? No problem... just put the car in neutral using the shift lever.

Brian H | July 23, 2013

Regen is stronger on the Roadster because it is a lighter car. Note that brakes also (mostly) depend on the front wheels, which regen (in a RWD) cannot use.

chrisdl | July 23, 2013

Excellent point about the regen braking only being on the rear wheels, Brian.

@Amped: In my opinion (but who am I), it could even be better by increasing regen when you apply the brake pedal. With the current setup, you're limited to the maximum regen level of whatever it is when you let go of the accelerator. Obviously, when you brake, you theoretically could regen more and thus gain more energy instead of wasting it as heat in the rear (thank you, Brian) brakes.

But I understand the complications of this, and I guess simplicity, reliability and safety were bigger concerns when designing the car (as they should be).

shop | July 23, 2013

THe 60 Kwh regen might be a cost/performance limit. While I too would like to see stronger regen at high speeds, it might not be possible (and also as Brian noted, all regen braking is via rear wheels only which introduces stability issues for strong rear wheel braking). I also would love the ability to regen brake all the way to a stop. That too could be some sort of hardware limitation.

In the end though I wonder if I'll ever have to replace the brake pads!

John56 | July 23, 2013

@Kleist Not sure where you're coming from by saying that "hill hold" isn't needed on the S because it has plenty of torque to hold the car at zero rpms on even steep hills. I've had my P85 for about 8 months and I have to apply go pedal (or brake and go for two foot operation) quite often to keep my car from coasting backwards, even when in creep mode. Even in my very slightly sloping driveway my car will drift away without brake or go pressure.

redders | July 23, 2013

I'm very happy with the one pedal drive of the Tesla. Nothing needs to change in my view. Put foot on pedal it goes forward. Take foot off pedal it actively slows down.

My only need is hill start. I put creep back on the car because I don't want to be one pedaling on a hill waiting for traffic/a light. I want to put foot on brake but the roll back is poor. I put creep mode on to mitigate the roll back but would will remove once hill start comes to save the day.

AmpedRealtor | July 23, 2013

What is the difference between putting your foot on the break or keeping the accelerator depressed slightly on a hill to keep you from moving? It sounds like six of one and a half dozen of the other. They are both identical with the exception of your foot being on a different pedal.

chrisdl | July 23, 2013

@Amped Hill hold doesn't require a foot on any pedal. The car just stays where it is.
You brake until standstill, and when you're ready to go you let all the pedals free and simply press the accelerator. No brake pedal, no accelerator juggling, no roll back.

If I read redders message correctly: foot on the brake causes roll back, foot on the accelerator causes pedaling.

I'm starting to think that some people don't want any changes or improvements to the Model S. If that's so, then I'm afraid that Elon Musk is going to disappoint them, because I doubt that he's going to sit still. In fact, one of the big benefits of an MS is that it's so dead easy to add features and improvements.

Theresa | July 23, 2013

Amped, I would disagree with your statement they are the same. From a vehicle movement perspective maybe but from a power perspective the accelerator is using power while the brake is not.

negarholger | July 23, 2013

@John56 - practice, practice, practice... I started out the same way as you, but only because we are programmed that way. Yes, you hold the car with the accelerator pedal. Once my wife understood the principle she mastered it after a couple of hills in SF.

carlk | July 23, 2013

I think I will like it and am sure the option will be added in the future. The reaction time can be improved from what it is if you lift your foot from the accelerator to let it coast and put it on the brake pedal when you anticipate a condition that you might need to slow down or to slow down fast. BTW there is no energy wasted since the brake pedal will only activate engine regen when it is lightly pressed.

bigbit | July 23, 2013


I see your point, and also Brian's (i'd love to call him Brain once just for the heck of it) that the regen can't be stronger on a brake tap. Thx for the explanation. I thought that peddle balancing cost KWh and coasting did not. Hence the difference between neutral and peddle balance or cruise control. So my perfect world would be:
Release peddle: coast in neutral, reapply peddle: accelerate
Press, tap brake regen - increaseregen until friction is needed.

PaceyWhitter | July 23, 2013

BMW's regen philosophy is interesting. In theory I like it, it would just be nice to see it implemented. For instance, is the change sudden? i.e. at 55 it coasts, but 54 and it regens? or is a a gradual change?

If it is a sudden change and I am coasting at highway speed and go below the threshold, does regen automatically kick in?

Would need more information (and likly need to drive it) before passing judgment.

tobi_ger | July 23, 2013

BTW there is no energy wasted since the brake pedal will only activate engine regen when it is lightly pressed.
Huh? For which car? Brake on MS does not trigger regen, does it?

carlk | July 23, 2013

Let me explain a little more why I think this coasting (at high speed) works better. When I drive at highway speed my first reaction whenever I sense something is going on, like traffic slowing down, car parked on the shoulder, the car next lane seem to want to change to lift my foot from the accelerator and place it on the brake pedal. This way the car is not slowing down (much) but I can brake fast if need to. In other words I want the car is still going 65-75 but my right foot is on top of the brake pedal. The difference from the half second saved to move my foot from one pedal to the other could mean a timely stop or an accident.

2-Star | July 23, 2013

I too think Hill Hold is needed. Yes, you can keep the car from rolling back with the Go Pedal, but it requires a VERY precise touch on any kind of steep hill. My right foot gets tired, so I just put my left foot on the brake. Wish I didn't have to.

Robert Hodgen | July 23, 2013

Regen is not an all or nothing affair. Ease your foot a little bit (not all the way) off the accelerator and you coast. Ease a little bit more and you get some regen. When your foot is all the way off the accelerator, you get max regen.

With practice, you become addicted to one foot driving.

Sudre_ | July 23, 2013

carlk, you already gain that half second with the model S because the instant you take your foot off the accelerator you start slowing. That's what I love about the car.... automatic increased reaction time. Also when I am on the highway I am using cruise control so I can keep my foot over the break the entire time and maintain a constant speed.

I already played the coasting game as a test run by shifting to neutral whenever I could... it was not very useful at all because it took a very steep grade at highway speeds to even maintain the 70 posted speed. The drag from the air alone slows the car down on most hills at those speeds.

chrisdl | July 23, 2013

Excellent point, carl!

In fact, this can be a major safety concern. So maybe Tesla should steal the idea afterall.

carlk | July 23, 2013

@Sudre_ It's not true when you need a hard stop with full brake force applied instantly. You can't beat the time when your foot is already on the brake no matter how fast your reaction is to move your foot from another pedal. BTW you can't use cruise control in the Bay Area 80 mph bumper to bumper AND stop and go traffic.

What I don't understand is why so many people are arguing against adding it just as an option? NIH at work again?

Sudre_ | July 23, 2013

IF you are traveling 80 mph in bumper to bumper traffic then your concerns are NOT safety... LOL. I don't care if you are already on the brakes you are going to hit the car in front of you if it comes to a sudden stop.

I however have no problems with the update as long as I can shut it off because it would be very annoying to me. I am used to driving manuals. There are a lot of other features I would like to see implemented first.