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Crash testing of heavier EVs shows US guardrails may be unable to hold up

Feb 1

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In a recent crash test conducted at the University of Nebraska’s Midwest Roadside Safety Facility, a nearly 8,000-pound electric vehicle (EV) collided with a standard American guardrail, revealing extensive damage. This research has sparked concerns about the suitability of existing infrastructure for the increased weight of electric vehicles, potentially posing a challenge to their widespread adoption.

“We knew it was going to be an extremely demanding test of the roadside safety system,” said Cody Stolle, a research assistant professor at the University of Nebraska. “So far, we don’t see good vehicle-to-guardrail compatibility with electric vehicles.”

American guardrails, designed to handle collisions with vehicles approximately half the weight of the tested EV, demonstrated significant vulnerability in the face of the electric vehicle’s substantial mass.

“As EVs continue to be sold and become more popular, this will become a more prevalent problem,” Stolle said. “There is some urgency to address this.”

The weight disparity between electric and traditional gas-powered vehicles can be up to 50% more for EVs due to the heavy batteries they run on. The batteries in some electric vehicle models can weigh close to 2,000 pounds, nearly half the weight of an average combustion engine car.

The testing done by engineers at the University of Nebraska aims to assess whether U.S. roadways are adequately equipped to handle the increased weight of electric vehicles. The Rivian truck used in their study won the Institute for Highway Safety’s highest tier award last year, but still demonstrated the ability to easily tear through a guardrail designed for lighter vehicles.

“Guardrails are kind of a safety feature of last resort,” said Michael Brooks, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety. “I think what you’re seeing here is the real concern with EVs — their weight.”

Beyond guardrails, concerns extend to other aspects of transportation infrastructure. Residential streets, driveways, and parking garages may experience increased stress due to the additional weight of electric vehicles. This could have implications for safety, maintenance, and the overall longevity of these structures.

Meanwhile, the potential danger posed to pedestrians and other drivers could be even greater.

Research from the National Bureau of Economic Research indicates that being hit by a car with just 1,000 pounds of additional weight increases the chances of a fatality by almost half. With the weight of some EVs reaching nearly four tons, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has already expressed fears about the potential risks they pose.

“I’m concerned about the increased risk of severe injury and death for all road users from heavier curb weights and increasing size, power, and performance of vehicles on our roads, including electric vehicles,” said Jennifer Homendy, chair of the NTSB. “We have to be careful that we aren’t also creating unintended consequences: More death on our roads.”

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[JACK ALYMER]

THAT’S THE SOUND OF A NEARLY 8,000 POUND ELECTRIC VEHICLE SMASHING INTO A STANDARD HIGHWAY GUARDRAIL.

THE DAMAGE IS EXTENSIVE.

THIS IS BECAUSE THESE BARRIERS WERE ONLY MEANT TO HANDLE COLLISIONS WITH CARS ABOUT HALF THAT WEIGHT.

IT COULD BE A MAJOR PROBLEM FOR MASS EV ADOPTION.

ELECTRIC VEHICLES OFTEN WEIGH UP TO 50 PERCENT MORE THAN THEIR GAS POWERED COUNTERPARTS.

THE MAIN REASON- THE BATTERIES EVS RUN ON ARE VERY HEAVY.
IN SOME MODELS THEY WEIGH ALMOST TWO THOUSAND POUNDS. CLOSE TO HALF THE WEIGHT OF AN AVERAGE COMBUSTION ENGINE CAR.

ENGINEERS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA’S MIDWEST ROADSIDE SAFETY FACILITY HAVE BEEN RESEARCHING WHETHER U.S. ROADWAYS CAN HANDLE THAT MUCH WEIGHT BEING THROWN AROUND.

THE RESULTS HAVE RAISED SERIOUS SAFETY CONCERNS.

THIS RIVIAN VEHICLE RECIEVED THE INSTITUTE FOR HIGHWAY SAFETY’S TOP AWARD LAST YEAR

BUT IT STILL TEARS THROUGH THAT GUARDRAIL WITH EASE. AND IT’S NOT JUST GUARDRAILS THAT MIGHT NEED AN UPDATE.

THE EXTRA WEIGHT FROM EVS WILL AFFECT OTHER PARTS OF OUR TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE.

RESIDENTIAL STREETS, DRIVEWAYS AND PARKING GARAGES WILL ALL FEEL THE STRAIN AS WELL.

THE DANGERS POSED TO PEDESTRIANS AND OTHER DRIVERS MAY BE EVEN WORSE.

ACCORDING TO THE NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH, BEING HIT BY A CAR WITH JUST A THOUSAND POUNDS OF ADDITIONAL WEIGHT INCREASES THE CHANCES OF BEING KILLED BY ALMOST HALF.

SO IMAGINE WHAT A FOUR TON EV CAN DO.

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