Early testing suggests highway guardrails not built for heavy EVs


Preliminary crash testing finds that the nation’s guardrails may not be suitable for heavy electric vehicles (EVs).

A test crash conducted at the University of Nebraska Lincoln’s Midwest Roadside Safety Facility involved a nearly 4-ton 2022 Rivian R1T. When the pickup truck crashed through a metal guardrail and barely slowed down before hitting a concrete barrier, it came as little surprise to the researchers, The Associated Press reported.

“We knew it was going to be an extremely demanding test of the roadside safety system,” Cody Stolle, a member of the facility, told the AP. “The system was not made to handle vehicles greater than 5,000 pounds.”

The test crash was intended to see how guardrails, which are set up along tens of thousands of miles of roads in the United States, would fare against electric vehicles that weight thousands of pounds more than an average sedan.

As EVs become more popular among efforts to lower emissions on the road, transportation officials have growing concerns over the weight disparity between lighter gas-powered cars and the new, heavier electric options, the AP reported.

Electric vehicles are heavier due to the batteries needed to achieve their travel range. The batteries can weigh almost as much as a small gas-powered car.

Road safety officials warn that while electric vehicles protect their occupants, they prove to be dangerous to people in lighter cars.

Stolle told the AP that the Rivian truck that was tested in Nebraska showed almost no damage to the interior after it crashed.

“Guardrails are kind of a safety feature of last resort,” Michael Brooks, the executive director of the Center for Auto Safety said. “I think what you’re seeing here is the real concern with EVs — their weight. There are lot of new vehicles in this larger-size range coming out in that 7,000-pound rage. And that’s a concern.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Research and Development Center, which sponsored the test crash, also crashed a Tesla, which lifted the guardrail and went under it.

Stolle said more testing is necessary, but as electric vehicles continue to rise in popularity, the guardrail problem will become more prevalent and there is urgency to address the issue.

The Hill has reached out to the university’s Midwest Roadside Safety Facility for more information.

The Associated Press contributed.

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