Paddle shifters on an electric vehicle might seem like a bit of an engineering oversight. After all, what use is manual control over gears if there are no gears to control?
Think laterally though, and the appearance of paddle shifters in the 2014 Cadillac ELR makes a lot of sense--variable regenerative braking.
It's not actually a new concept. The 2013 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive offers just such a system, using the standard Fortwo's paddle shifters to either reduce or increase regenerative braking, depending on which paddle you pull.
The Caddy's paddles work in a slightly different way, both left and right paddles doing the same job.
Cadillac calls it Regen on Demand. If you're approaching a situation which requires less speed, simply back off the gas and pull one of the paddles.
This increases the regenerative effect, both harnessing more energy for the battery, and increasing the rate of deceleration. Cadillac likens the effect to selecting a lower gear in a regular vehicle, providing more engine braking.
Chris Thomason, ELR Chief Engineer, says it provides drivers with a more engaged, satisfying driving experience.
"Pulling back on the paddle to slow down allows the ELR driver to keep their foot close to the throttle, ready to accelerate,” he said. said. “When you consider the added benefit of re-capturing energy, it’s also a smart thing to do.”
Realeasing the paddle disengages Regen on Demand, allowing the vehicle to coast at a more natural rate.
Regen on Demand is just one feature that separates the ELR from its cousin, the Chevy Volt. Cadillac drivers also get a little more power than their Chevy counterparts, with 295 pounds-feet of torque available from zero rpm.
Electric range is around 35 miles, and Cadillac says a full charge at 240V takes around 4.5 hours.
The 2014 Cadillac ELR range-extended coupe goes on sale in early 2014.