Brembo's Electric Brake System Will Change the Way You Slow Down

Electrifying cars doesn't just mean exchanging out engines for batteries and electric motors. Other car components are getting big upgrades thanks to electrons.

Brembo is attempting to take the "panic" out of panic stop with a new system called Sensify. The feature, currently being tested, but under development for 10 years, gets rid of the main parts of today's typical braking systems, exchanging them for high tech components.

Gone are the master cylinder, brake lines and brake fluid. In their place are a smaller, lighter electric setup that uses actuators and algorithms to clamp down on the brake disc instead of fluid pressure.

"A little bit over a year ago Brembo introduced its new vision. Not be satisfied with what we've achieved over the years, but to further our leverage, our knowhow, and our skills to develop the products of tomorrow. Sensify is the tangible implementation of our mission," Stephane Rolland, President and CEO of Brembo North America told Newsweek.

"When you feel in full control and safe, you're willing to be more daring, and express your full potential. This is what Sensify will deliver," he said. "It's the merger of two words. Sense, the ability to perceive and external signal. And the word simplify, which is about the way the system can be integrated into the current ecosystem."

The Sensify system stops faster than traditional braking systems, but also gets rid of the pulsing brake pedal feeling of traditional antilock brakes. Brembo says it can be installed on two wheels or all four, and eventually on commercial and racing vehicles.

The Sensify system lessens drag between the brake discs and pads, leading to longer life for both and better mileage or range on an electric vehicle.

Brembo Sensify test car
The Brembo Sensify system stops without locking up the wheels. Brembo North America

It sounds like a brake-by-wire system like the Toyota Prius, Lexus RX, Alfa Romeo Giulia and a few others currently employ, but Rolland assured that it was different.

"No, it is not a brake-by-wire system, it's a totally new experience. It is very similar to breakthrough innovation that occurred years ago in the automotive sector years ago with antilock brakes and electronic skid protection," said Rolland.

"Sensify will deliver driving pleasure and total safety. Both of which are Brembo values. We're moving from a system that for decades simultaneously applied the same braking pressure to all four wheels, to a system that independently manages the forces on each of the wheels depending on the driver's needs, the vehicle dynamics or road conditions."

It also has safety redundancies built in, in case of an electrical problem. Eventually it will work like an airplane's electrical system with backups for each component.

Brembo Sensify
The Sensify system uses electromechanical brake calipers instead of fluid-actuated ones. Brembo North America

"According to the detected fault, Sensify switches on different secondary braking that preserves the deceleration performance and the vehicle stability," Brembo North America Mechatronics Engineer Zacharia Spykstra told Newsweek. "In case of loss of power supply, the service braking is guaranteed by the hydraulic backup line on the front axle. In the future, with the four electro-mechanical brakes on all corners the power supply system will be fully redundant, like on a plane."

The Sensify system starts with the pedals, which can have different applications for different drivers. For driver 1, full brake pressure might take an inch of pedal travel. Driver 2 might want something softer, and that can be programmed.

There's no need for a fluid-filled master cylinder in the full Sensify system, though Brembo did show a hybrid system with electromechanical calipers in front and traditional fluid calipers on the rear wheels. Those new electric calipers can lock up faster than any human can press a brake pedal, especially when automatic emergency braking is activated.

It doesn't pulse back at the driver's foot during a panic stop either. A car with antilock brakes locks up all four wheels, and then lets each one roll a bit to keep the car straight while coming to a stop. The Sensify system applies the exact amount of pressure needed to stop quickly without locking up the tires, with no pushback feel and near perfect control, even around a corner braking from high speed.

Brembo Sensify Tesla
The Sensify system can go from zero to 100 percent brake pressure in milliseconds. Brembo North America

"Sensify combines our knowhow and skill with our current product portfolio. Calipers, discs, friction material, and we're combining this along with digitalization and artificial intelligence. We've made an evolutionary platform that includes software, predictive algorithms, data management, which allows us to have an active contribution to the car's handling," said Rolland.

"The brake system as we know it will no longer be the sum of parts, but it will become an ecosystem where AI and software will play an active role, leveraging data collection to improve the driver's experience and ensure the system is constantly updated, and continuously improved."

The system reduces particulate matter from the friction material as it has about 80 percent less drag on the discs compared to a car with traditional calipers. It's just a few newton-meters less pressure, but it improves the longevity of the brakes and discs.

"The way Sensify handles optimized braking at each of the wheels, along with the absence of drag that we have in our system between the discs and friction material, significantly reduces the level of particle emissions. It's a sustainable braking solution," said Rolland.

Sensify will give designers and engineers more freedom as well, as the components don't need to be located near the driver.

"The advantage of Sensify is that you can position the brake components, including the actuators, closer to the corner of the car which will leave more space in the hood, and in general leaving more space in the car resulting in better architecture opportunities, especially for the EV vehicles," Spykstra said. "In addition, the absence of brake fluid, which avoids complications of bleeding the system, adds some considerable advantage in terms of storage and savings."

Brembo has several projects in development with the Sensify system and expects it to be available on the market in 2024. When it does drivers will still be panic stopping, it'll just be a safer, less dramatic endeavor.