NTSB chief warns of dangers posed by heavy electric vehicles: NPR
DETROIT — The head of the National Transportation Safety Board expressed concern Wednesday about the safety risks posed by heavy electric vehicles if they collide with lighter vehicles.
Official Jennifer Homendy raised the issue in a speech in Washington to the Transportation Research Council. I noticed, for example, that GMC Hummer Electric It weighs about 9,000 pounds (4,000 kilograms), with the battery pack alone being 2,900 pounds (1,300 kilograms)—about the total weight of a typical Honda Civic.
“I am concerned about the increased risk of severe injury and death for all road users due to the heavier weights and increased size, power and performance of vehicles on our roads, including electric vehicles,” Homundi said in prepared remarks to the group.
The extra weight that electric vehicles typically carry stems from the sheer mass of their batteries. To achieve 300 miles or more (480 kilometers or more) of range per EV charge, batteries must weigh thousands of pounds.
Some of the battery chemistries being developed have the potential to pack more energy into less mass. But right now, there’s a weight mismatch between electric vehicles and smaller internal combustion vehicles. Electric vehicles also provide instant power to their wheels, causing them to accelerate faster in most cases than most gas-powered cars, trucks, and SUVs.
Homendy said she was encouraged by the Biden administration’s plans to phase out carbon emissions from vehicles to deal with the climate crisis. But she said she was still concerned about the safety risks posed by the proliferation of electric vehicles on roads and highways.
“We have to be careful not to also cause an unintended consequence: more death on our roads,” she said. “Safety, especially when it comes to new transportation policies and new technologies, cannot be overlooked.”
Homendy noticed that Ford F-150 Lightning EV Truck 2,000 to 3,000 lb (900 to 1,350 kg) heavier than the combustion version in the same model. The Mustang Mach E electric SUV It said the Volvo XC40 EV is about 33% heavier than its petrol counterparts.
“This has a significant impact on the safety of all road users,” Hommendy added.
The NTSB investigates transportation incidents but does not have the authority to issue regulations. For vehicles, that authority rests largely with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Even aside from electric vehicles, the country’s roads are clogged with heavy vehicles, thanks to a decade-long boom in sales of larger cars, trucks, and SUVs that has led to severe collision mismatches with smaller vehicles. But electric cars are usually much heavier than even the largest petrol or diesel trucks and SUVs.
Michael Brooks, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Automotive Safety, said he’s also concerned about the weight of electric vehicles because buyers seem to be demanding a range of 300 miles or more per charge, which would require heavy batteries.
Creating a freight network to accommodate this could be a mistake, Brooks said, from a safety perspective.
“These larger and heavier batteries will cause more damage,” he said. “It’s a simple matter of mass and velocity.”
Brooks said he knows of little research that has been done on the safety risks of increasing vehicle weight. In 2011, the National Bureau of Economic Research published a paper that said being hit by a vehicle with an added 1,000-pound weight increased by 47% in the probability of dying in a crash.
He points out that electric cars have a very high horsepower rating, which allows them to accelerate quickly even in crowded urban areas. “People are not trained to handle that kind of acceleration. It’s not something drivers are used to doing,” Brooks said.
Also, many of the newer electric SUVs are tall and have limited visibility, which poses dangers to pedestrians or drivers of smaller vehicles, he said.
New electric vehicle sales in the United States rose nearly 65% last year to 807,000 — about 5.8% of all new vehicle sales. The Biden administration has set a goal of owning electric vehicles Reaching 50% of new car sales by 2030 And it offers tax credits of up to $7,500 to get there. Consulting firm LMC Automotive has made a more modest forecast: it predicts that electric vehicles will make up a third of the new car market by 2030.