Massive EV Battery Packs Could Exacerbate ‘Fatality Crisis’ on US Roads, Experts Warn
Safety experts are increasingly raising concerns that the large weight of electric vehicles [EV] could pose serious risks to public safety, Axios reported Monday.
EVs can often weigh thousands of pounds greater than comparable gas-powered vehicles, with the 2023 Hummer EV pickup clocking in at 9,000 pounds, with its 2,900 pound battery — which weighs more than an entire Honda Civic — helping make it roughly 3,000 pounds heavier than the 2023 GMC Sierra, Axios reported. Aging infrastructure, particularly parking garages, may not be ready for the significant deployment of EVs, while the added weight of vehicles may pose a significant threat to pedestrians in car accidents.
“Since we’re seeing pedestrian and roadway fatalities at record levels, the introduction of more weight into crashes via EVs will complicate any attempts to reduce the ongoing fatality crisis that has showed [sic] no signs of abating,” acting executive director Michael Brooks of the Center for Auto Safety told Axios. “Unless we see incredibly rapid advances in battery design and vehicle designs, and taking smart steps like using battery energy density gains to save weight rather than extend range, or opening the doors to battery swapping, we are likely to see many additional deaths and injuries attributable solely to the added weight of EV batteries.”
From 2019 to 2022 pedestrian deaths surged by 18%, according to the Governor Highway Safety Administration. The “baseline fatality probability” per car crash climbs by 47% for every 1,000 pounds the vehicle weighs, according to a 2011 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Of particular concern is the fact that EVs are capable of rapid acceleration — the Hummer EV can go from 0 to 60 mph in roughly three seconds — while their extra weight can cause longer stopping distances, Raul Arbelaez, vice president of the Vehicle Research Center at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, wrote in an early March blog post. He notes that the proliferation of EVs will likely increase collisions between vehicles with significant weight disparities.
“Assuming the new generation of heavy EVs is designed to perform well in our crash tests, there is no reason they can’t provide good protection to their occupants,” Abrelaez wrote. “In fact, their extra weight will afford them greater protection in a multi-vehicle crash. Unfortunately, given the way these vehicles are currently designed, this increased protection comes at the expense of people in other vehicles.”
While just 10 EV models qualify for the $7,500 consumer tax credit offered under President Joe Biden’s signature climate law, the Inflation Reduction Act, the administration expects manufacturing to ramp up substantially by 2030. California — whose dominant economic position has often influenced nationwide changes in the automotive market — has approved regulations banning the sale of diesel-powered trucks after 2036, and gas-powered passenger vehicles after 2035.
As the U.S. government continues to encourage the transition to EVs, it must “be careful that we aren’t also creating unintended consequences: More death on our roads,” Jennifer Homendy, head of the National Transportation Safety Board, said in a January speech, according to The Associated Press. “Safety, especially when it comes to new transportation policies and new technologies, cannot be overlooked.”
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