An Uh-Oh for EVs
News Shorts
Posted: February 02, 2024
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    A 2022 Rivian R1T, an electric truck, is used for crash test research in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Craig Chandler/University of Nebraska via AP)
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    The test truck smashes through a guardrail. (Craig Chandler/University of Nebraska via AP)
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    The EV before the crash (Craig Chandler/University of Nebraska via AP)
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    Trevor Donahoo connects testing equipment inside the truck’s cab during crash testing. (Craig Chandler/University of Nebraska via AP)
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An electric vehicle. A gas-powered car. Which one weighs more?

If you guessed electric, you’re right.

And a new test shows that weight could be a big problem. U.S. guardrails just can’t handle it.

Experimenters crashed electric vehicles (EVs). EVs smashed through guardrails.

Electric vehicles can weigh up to 50 percent more than gas-powered ones. (That’s about half as much added to the original car’s weight.) That’s thanks to their large batteries. Just the battery can weigh almost as much as a small gasoline car! It may carry an EV up to 300 miles on one charge.

Engineers at Nebraska’s Midwest Roadside Safety Facility watched an electric Rivian R1T pickup truck. It hurtled toward a guardrail at the testing site. It tore right through. The EV barely slowed until it hit a concrete barrier yards away.

Tester Cody Stolle says, “The system was not made to handle vehicles greater than 5,000 pounds.”

There are more potential problems. What happens when a heavy EV crashes into a lighter gas-powered car? EV riders may be well protected. (The test truck showed almost no damage inside.) But passengers in lighter cars face greater danger. And what about parking garages? Engineers designed most of them for vehicles that weigh between 3,000 and 6,000 pounds. Some of the heaviest EVs, like the Rivian truck, weigh more than 7,000 pounds.

Guardrails stretch along tens of thousands of miles of U.S. roadway. They are meant to keep vehicles from leaving the road. Especially in dangerous spots like bridges and cliffs.

More testing will come. Then engineers will work to solve the problem. How can they make guardrails that protect all kinds of cars, heavy and light?  

You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. — Psalm 4:8