After­mar­ket brakes

As per­for­mance up­grades go, brak­ing is usu­ally a high pri­or­ity. But as we’ve found out, things are about to get rather com­pli­cated

Evo India - - TECH - by Brett Fraser

STOP­PING. IT’S AS im­por­tant as go­ing. Maybe more so. (You can only brag about hit­ting 200kmph if you didn’t sub­se­quently hit an im­mov­able ob­ject at a barely di­min­ished speed).

Tra­di­tion­ally, the after­mar­ket has been able to of­fer im­proved slow­ing power be­cause the en­gi­neers of mass-pro­duced cars have to fit brakes that fall within a bud­get set by their com­pany’s ac­coun­tants. But im­proved safety leg­is­la­tion and higher cus­tomer ex­pec­ta­tions have raised the OEM game. The more switched-on mar­ket­ing de­part­ments are even pro­mot­ing their own track­days for own­ers, so a very high stan­dard of brak­ing in ex­treme con­di­tions has be­come more de­sir­able and there­fore fis­cally ac­cept­able.

Another fac­tor shap­ing the after­mar­ket is that, for many years now, the big play­ers have been in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked with the car mak­ers them­selves. Brembo, AP Rac­ing, Al­con and oth­ers are the go-to guys when a man­u­fac­turer wants to prove how se­ri­ous it is about the stop­ping equip­ment on its new model. As a con­se­quence, the after­mar­ket is hav­ing to ad­here to main­stream rules and reg­u­la­tions. Some of these, such as those for par­tic­u­late emis­sions con­tain­ing cop­per from brake pads, are in­dus­try-wide any­way, but an as­so­ci­a­tion with a ma­jor car maker is an en­cour­age­ment to meet new stan­dards sooner rather than later.

For the medium- to long-term fu­ture, the big­gest chal­lenge fac­ing the brak­ing after­mar­ket is the pro­lif­er­a­tion of elec­tro-me­chan­i­cal au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing sys­tems, or AEBs. This is a tech­ni­cal ex­ten­sion of many of the sys­tems we now take for granted: ABS, trac­tion con­trol, sta­bil­ity con­trol, elec­tronic brake-force distri­bu­tion and, in the era of hy­brid and fully elec­tric cars, brake-by-wire and re­gen­er­a­tive-brak­ing sys­tems. AEB set­ups are on the brink of be­com­ing part of a holis­tic car-con­trol pack­age – a sin­gle con­trol­ling com­puter that in­te­grates all of the on-board elec­tron­ics – that will as­sess data from throt­tle po­si­tion, road speed, steer­ing an­gle, slip an­gle, for­ward-fac­ing radar sen­sors and even GPS, and trig­ger an op­ti­mum brak­ing re­sponse that is be­yond the ma­jor­ity of driv­ers. Sev­eral na­tional gov­ern­ments are push­ing for AEB sys­tems to be manda­tory.

Fur­ther down the line, brak­ing will also be gov­erned by in­for­ma­tion from road­side sen­sors and even other cars – a bro­ken-down ve­hi­cle around a blind bend, for in­stance, could com­mu­ni­cate with your car, which then cuts the throt­tle and ap­plies the brakes. Such a com­plex setup would likely re­quire ex­act

data about brake-disc di­am­e­ter, brake-pad com­pounds, cal­liper spec, etc – in­for­ma­tion that could be cor­rupted by up­grad­ing your discs and pads. Un­less, of course, the after­mar­ket in­dus­try is work­ing with the car man­u­fac­tur­ers from the out­set. Such re­la­tion­ships will be crit­i­cal in the fu­ture.

On a more mun­dane yet cru­cial level, through its main­stream con­nec­tions the after­mar­ket is em­brac­ing the is­sues vex­ing the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try in gen­eral. Weight saving, for ex­am­ple. Even the small­est re­duc­tions im­pact the power re­quired to move a car down the road, af­fect­ing its fuel con­sump­tion and CO2 emis­sions. After­mar­ket lead­ers such as Brembo have re­fined the de­sign of the in­ter­nal cool­ing vents of their high-per­for­mance discs, en­abling those discs to be smaller in di­am­e­ter and there­fore lighter, all for the same heat-dis­si­pa­tion qual­i­ties. Not ter­ri­bly sexy, per­haps, but it goes down well with leg­is­la­tors.

Com­pos­ite discs – an iron disc with an alu­minium hat (the el­e­ment that mates with the wheel hub) – also re­duce weight. Good for CO2 and also for cut­ting un­sprung mass, po­ten­tially to the ben­e­fit of ride and han­dling. And the alu­minium hat has su­pe­rior heat-dis­si­pa­tion qual­i­ties, aid­ing fade-re­sis­tance in ex­treme driv­ing con­di­tions.

At the top end of the after­mar­ket, Sur­face Transforms is mar­ket­ing what it claims is the ‘next gen­er­a­tion’ of car­bon-ceramic discs. In­stead of short strands of chopped car­bon­fi­bre, the Liver­pool-based firm uses long strands that have su­pe­rior heat con­duc­tiv­ity; they’re com­bined with a car­bon-sil­i­con car­bide ceramic. The com­pany calls the re­sult­ing ma­te­rial Car­bon Fi­bre Re­in­forced Ceramic, or CFRC, and reck­ons its discs run at op­er­at­ing tem­per­a­tures 100°C lower than reg­u­lar car­bon-ceramic discs and of­fer far greater longevity. The BAC Mono uses CFRC discs and Sur­face Transforms is a tech­ni­cal part­ner on the As­ton Martin Valkyrie hy­per­car project.

More af­ford­ably, EBC is now pro­mot­ing Bal­anced Brake Kits. As the name im­plies, this is a pack­age of front and rear discs, pads, brake lines and fluid, tai­lored to your car. The idea is to pro­vide a prop­erly bal­anced setup that aids your car’s han­dling. A good after­mar­ket brakes re­tailer would ad­vise sim­i­lar, but EBC has seized the ini­tia­tive and trade­marked the con­cept, fur­ther demon­strat­ing that when it comes to im­prov­ing stop­ping power, it’s no longer just a mat­ter of fit­ting the big­gest discs that will fit inside your wheels.

Fur­ther down the line brak­ing will also be gov­erned by in­for­ma­tion from road­side

sen­sors and even other cars

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