Can brake pads be eco-friendly? Lumag is conducting tests

A new acquisition of the Lumag company located in Budzyń intrigues passers-by. The measuring devices installed on the car body are an eye-catcher. The inconspicuous apparatus will prove to be a leap in trying to understand the needs of green energy car users.

Electric cars are an increasingly common view on European roads. According to the European Environment Agency, almost 550,000 of them were registered in 2019 in the European Union countries. On the one hand, it is an invaluable relief for the environment, but on the other hand, it is a big challenge for brake pad manufacturers who have to adapt their production to market requirements. In order to better understand the needs of users of green energy cars, the Lumag company, the owner of the Breck brand, purchased VW ID.4, which will test new solutions useful in the production of friction materials.

The car will be used to test the friction materials under development for electric vehicles. The main development of friction materials will be carried out on an inertia brake test rig, the so-called dynamometer”, says EngD Tomasz Orłowski, the head of the Lumag’s Research and Development Department. “However, the tests on the vehicle are the final and most important confirmation of meeting the previously assumed requirements”, he adds.

A lot could be said about the differences between electric and internal combustion cars. While the external appearance of these cars remains almost unchanged, they differ in design solutions and technologies that are not visible from the outside. One of many examples of such differences turns out to be the braking system and the braking itself.

Electric vehicles recover part of their kinetic energy during braking, converting it into electrical energy. The electric motor then acts like a generator, charging the batteries with the energy generated”, points out the head of the Lumag Research and Development Department.

At first glance, it might seem that such a solution generates savings due to the almost negligible operation of the brake system. This would mean that the economy that goes hand-in-hand with the use of electric cars should be perceived much more broadly. Unfortunately, reality mercilessly brings all those who think this way down to earth.

In general, the main problem of braking systems is their susceptibility to corrosion; this especially applies to discs and, to a lesser extent, brake pads. Braking systems should be used frequently to remove thin layers of corrosion products. If they are not – and this is a common situation in electric cars, which mainly reduce speed thanks to regeneration – the discs can rust and the next braking with the use of the braking system will be uncomfortable. Very infrequent use of the brake for long periods of time can even result in pitting on the surface of the brake disc, which will cause the steering wheel to vibrate”, says EngD Tomasz Orłowski.

A partial solution to this problem may be the use of drum brakes, which are less susceptible to corrosion due to their built-in design. This is the factory-fitted solution on the rear axle of VW ID.4, an electric car purchased by Lumag for road tests, which also draws attention with its unusual appearance. This appearance is about the measuring instruments placed inside and on the body of the car. It is the LINK VMAX 4000 system that consists of a computer with appropriate software and sensors that measure, among other things, squeaks and vibrations of the brake caliper.

The universal nature of the system means that it can be successfully used for a wide variety of tests, carried out in extremely different road and weather conditions”, says Mr Orłowski.“As a result, the specialists on the research team can analyse parameters such as speed, disc and pad temperature, pressure in the brake system, caliper vibration, the intensity and frequency of the sound coming from the brakes, and the stroke and force of the brake pedal. This makes it possible to verify aspects such as braking efficiency, pad work comfort and vibration levels during braking.

The measurements carried out are expected to provide the Lumag specialists with the necessary data to develop friction materials for electric vehicles. The manufacturer aims for such materials to have low dusting, high corrosion resistance and high braking efficiency when the braking system is irregularly used. In the latest phase of research development, the manufacturer intends to expand its brake pad portfolio with friction material products tailored to the needs of users of the most popular electric vehicles.

Moreover, the new electric car in Lumag’s fleet is one of the components that make the company’s environmental strategy, which it has been following for several years, a reality. Recovering rainwater, segregating waste, reducing the amount of plastic foil used, and recycling production residues are just some of the actions taken so far by the Wielkopolska-based manufacturer of friction materials to care for the environment. The company’s buildings also now feature an impressive photovoltaic farm, as well as a charging station for electric vehicles located in the company’s parking lot, which reflects a specific concern for the environment.