Cars Are Still Sold With Drum Brakes in America Right Now, Including EVs

While watching a recent review of the Audi Q4 e-tron, we realized that the German luxury EV is equipped with drum brakes at the back. Now that’s quite surprising for a vehicle that had been configured to over $60,000, and there are apparently others cars with drum brakes on sale right now in America.

In a recent YouTube Shorts video, TFL said there are three vehicles in America which are sold with drum brakes, though they do it for entirely different reasons. One of them is the sister car of the Q4 e-tron, the Volkswagen ID.4. Of course, you’re going to see the same system on a number of other EVs which use the MEB platform.

Also, the Toyota Tacoma has drum brakes, although the next generation is just around the corner, and we’ve spied it with discs at the back. The other car on this list is the Mitsubishi Mirage, which at $14,645 is the cheapest new car you can get right now.

Why do the Volkswagen ID.4 and Audi Q4 e-tron have drum brakes?

The Volkswagen ID.4 is an electric crossover that competes with Teslas and costs around $40,000. And as we said, the Audi Q4 e-tron is even more expensive, so why do these models use such rudimentary technology?

Well, according to Volkswagen engineers, they didn’t need that much stopping force. Because of the way the weight is distributed, 90% of the stopping power is at the front, where both cars have beefy discs. The diameter of the front brakes maxes out at 358mm on both of these vehicles.

In addition, electric vehicles work differently. MEB-based cars are either rear-wheel-drive or have the biggest of the two motors at the rear, and this provides immediate braking power when you lift off the “gas.”

Disc brakes can reduce the efficiency of the vehicle when the pads are rubbing, but drums don’t have that issue. In addition, drums offer much better performance after a long period of not being used, and they require less frequent servicing. We’ve seen how on older Teslas, the rear braking system can become costly to maintain.

However, some believe VW tried to reduce costs simply because the ID.4 also has cheap plastics and fewer buttons. Besides these two, many other vehicles use the same platform and they all have drums at the back. That could be millions of EVs per year, resulting in very real savings for the German company.

The brake system is designed and made by Continental and promises many benefits. It’s resistant to corrosion because it’s sealed, integrates the parking brake, and has a service interval of 150,000 kilometers (93,000 miles), which could be the entire lifetime of the vehicle.

Why do other cars use drum brakes?

It’s possible that VW isn’t saving much money because discs are cheap and their drum brake system looks unique to this EV platform. However, the Germans are definitely trying to reduce costs over in Europe, where they downgraded cheaper cars such as the Polo or T-Cross.

Subcompacts like this used to be common in America too, up until a few years ago. And you only need to find an older Fiesta or Focus to see they too have drums. The drum brake was invented in 1902 and became the mainstay of car manufacturing until the 1950s when lighter and more powerful disc brakes were adapted from the aviation industry. By the 1980s, practically all cars were being fitted with discs, partly because of the competitive Japanese automakers a decade earlier.



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