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Old 11-09-2006, 01:33 PM   #1
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EWB Electronic Wedge Brakes

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Super Binders
Electronic wedge brakes will change the way we stop


AutoWeek | Published 11/09/06, 8:37 am et

Never heard of the EWB or electronic wedge brake? Donít worry. Chances are youíll be hearing a lot about it in coming years.

Thatís the opinion of German electronics specialist Siemens, which claims the high-tech stoppers, currently being tested for use on upcoming models by Europeís leading carmakers, will revolutionize the safety standards of future generations of road cars by dramatically shortening stopping distances compared with more traditional hydraulic braking systems.

Efforts to improve the efficiency of braking systems have led to some interesting innovations in recent years, including the use of ceramic carbon materials in brake discs and electronic activation of parking brakes. But those developments will seem minor compared to the leap Siemens is claiming for its new electronic wedge brake.

Not to be confused with the electrohydraulic Sensotronic brakes introduced by Mercedes-Benz in 2001 but subsequently removed from sale early this year due to unsolved reliability issues, the electronic wedge brake represents a bigger breakthrough. The idea behind the system is not exactly new, with similarities to the arrangement found on horse-drawn carriages from the 18th century, where a wedge was used to bring the wheel to a standstill. But rather than relying on a hardened piece of wood for a binder, the electronic wedge uses state-of-the-art electronics and an innovative wedge-shaped connection to provide the sort of stopping ability that existing hydraulic units cannot match.

Unlike todayís traditional hydraulic brake, which requires the buildup of forces before the caliper is able to grip the disc, the electronic wedge brake uses a series of interlocking triangular teeth that offset between the caliper and the disc. In all, it is claimed to require just one-tenth the energy used by hydraulic braking. A small electric motor pushes the pad toward the rotor by a lateral movementómuch like how a watermelon seed can be ejected at high velocity by squishing it between your fingers. The entire system runs on the standard 12-volt electrical system found in most cars.

Really clever, however, is that the kinetic energy of the car automatically increases the braking performance. In theory, the faster you are traveling when the brakes are applied, the more powerful they become. When the pad is applied to the disc, the momentum of the rotating disc draws the pad farther up an interlocking series of wedges, applying greater braking pressure and increasing stopping efficiency.

A series of electric motors push in and pull out at an extremely high frequency, while a torque sensor controls the braking force and keeps the wheels from locking up, thus alleviating the need for a conventional antilock braking system. With each brake unit operating independently from the others, it also means the electronic stability control can be programmed to operate on a much finer calibration, without the typical pulsating effect evident in some cars today.

In tests, a prototype with the wedge brakes regularly required less than half the distance to come to a complete stop than the prototype with the standard brakes, a company official said.

As well as providing greatly improved braking ability, wedge brakes are significantly lighter than todayís most advanced hydraulic units. With fewer moving parts, they also could be more reliable and last longer.

When will we see the new brakes begin filtering through to the road? Sources say the first car with wedge brakes, an Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz or Porsche, is planned for launch in 2008.
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