IIHS vice president reflects on safety in the era of big, heavy EVs

IIHS vice president reflects on safety in the era of big, heavy EVs

In November, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety loaded an older Ford pickup with enough ballast to make the truck weigh 9,500 pounds, then ran the Ford through IIHS crash test equipment. The organization wanted to ensure that its equipment could perform as required as we entered the era of ubiquitous electric vehicles. The equipment passed without any problems. But the organization is looking at issues outside the testing area, with recent comments by Vice President Raul Arbelez about how we can actually reduce the effect of heavy cars exacerbating the weight disparity in crashes with other cars , as well as possible additional damage to pedestrians and cyclists.

The commentary does not at any point take a stance against EVs. Arbelez writes, “We don’t need to put the brakes on electrification – there are good reasons for that – and we are not cursed to reverse all the safety gains of recent decades. But growth requires some new thinking about types.” How many vehicles do we want on our roads?

His piece opens a discussion on secondary features he believes automakers and government should think about considering that millions of cars weigh more than a Chevrolet Suburban or more than thousands of pounds; Or, at the other end, when the Chevrolet Bolt EUV weighs as much as a Mercedes E-Class sedan, depending on trim. “Today’s supersized EVs are a double whammy of weight and horsepower,” writes Arbelez, “and he’s not sure that safety features like the proliferation of brakes or crash-avoidance systems will keep up.” He wonders whether additional crash structures to protect passengers in other, lighter vehicles could be integrated into EVs because of the “increased safety”. [in a heavier EV] Comes at the cost of people in other vehicles.”

The easiest suggestion to be concerned about is when he writes, “States and local governments should consider lowering speed limits, taking into account the growing threat from weight disparities, and supporting them with more enforcement.” This may not be necessary if it limits EV weights. Since “the ability to travel 400 miles on a single charge is convenient, but unnecessary for most trips.” But until then, “we need to double down on existing solutions.” is needed” in order to keep up with decades of safety progress. View the full piece here on the IIHS site.

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