If you've ever wondered why your car is acting sluggish and has a burning smell only to discover that you've forgotten to release the parking brake, take heart. Automotive supplier Continental is developing an Electric Parking Brake (EPB) for drum brakes that's designed to bring this functionality out of the luxury cars and into the economy segment. As well as opening up new possibilities for car designers, it may also be integrated into driver assist systems that can remove the brake as you touch the accelerator.

Intended to fit into current rear-axle brake designs, the electro-mechanical Continental EPB is made up of two actuators built into the rear axle’s drum-brake base panel. These are controlled by software and electronics in the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system found in many light compacts. In addition, there’s a dual-acting hydraulic cylinder for the service brake. According to Continental, this arrangement provides a lightweight, low-cost, low-maintenance, electric parking brake that is also mechanically simpler than conventional versions.

Continental says that the EPB provides several advantages for small cars. Because it does away with the need for a parking brake lever in favor of a button, it will allow car designers more freedom in configuring the car’s interior and control layouts. In addition, the brake can now work with driver assist systems that could activate, deactivate, and configure the brake in specific situations, such as releasing the brake automatically when the accelerator is applied or helping in hill parking.

After the EPB goes into production in 2017, Continental sees the EPB being applied to duo-servo brakes common on light trucks and SUVs before expanding to replace mechanical parking brakes in the same way that automatic gearboxes are being phased out.

"We expect the hand-brake lever to gradually disappear from more and more cars of different classes over the next ten years," says Continental’s Matthias Matic. "Instead, the cars will be equipped with electric parking brakes. One car in four in Europe will feature an electric parking brake by 2015. That’s more than five times as many as in 2008."

Source: Continental