It won’t be winning any awards for its affordability, but the Cadillac (NYSE:GM) ELR walked away with Green Car Journal’s 2014 Green Car Technology Award, which was bestowed on the luxury hybrid coupe for its “innovative” Regen on Demand system; like “most regenerative braking systems in hybrid and electric vehicles, the ELR’s electric motor acts as a generator while braking, automatically recovering energy that’s delivered to the batteries as electricity,” Green Car Journal said in its press release.
However, Regen on Demand also allows the driver to engage or disengage the capabilities by pulling back or releasing the left or right steering wheel paddles. This essentially allows the driver to choose when to generate electricity, but it also means that the ELR can be driven without the drag that regeneration systems bring with them, for improved driving dynamics.
“Cadillac has cleverly evolved a common electric-drive efficiency system into an intriguing feature that adds a new dimension to the driving experience,” said Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of Green Car Journal and CarsOfChange.com. “Ever-increasing efficiency is crucial to our driving future, yet efficiency itself is not an attraction for a great many car buyers. Cadillac’s Regen on Demand is an inspired example of how technology can increase efficiency while connecting with a driver, enhancing driving dynamics along the way.”
The Regen on Demand system was under consideration along with Acura’s Sport Hybrid SH-AWD powertrain, Audi’s 3-liter TDI diesel engine, BMW i3′s carbon fiber reinforced plastic passenger cell, Ford’s 1-liter EcoBoost engine, the Honda Accord’s plug-in powertrain, Hyundai’s hydrogen fuel cell, Mazda’s i-ELOOP brake energy regeneration system, Porsche’s plug-in hybrid powertrain, and Ram’s 3-liter EcoDiesel unit.
Green Car Journal says that the award is given to products that “bring significantly improved environmental performance to today’s production vehicles.”
Jim Vurpillat, director of emerging markets at Cadillac, also weighed in. ”Regen on Demand is one of the key systems enabling the Cadillac ELR to merge performance with efficiency in a dynamic new way,” he said to Autoblog. “Putting regenerative braking at the driver’s fingertips supports the ELR’s 340-mile total driving range while also adding a fun-to-drive element matching the engaging design and performance of this premium luxury coupe.”
However, observers were quick to point out that a choice of regenerative braking is not a new technology, nor exclusive to the ELR. The ill-fated Fisker Karma offered a system by which the driver could select the level of regenerative braking power, and even the Toyota Prius has came equipped with a braking setting that could be engaged at the driver’s will — that being said, it appears as though the ELR is the first vehicle that can allow the full engagement or disabling of the regenerative braking system when desired.