US Testing Reveals Heavy EVs Can Plough Through Roadside Guardrails

New research has shown that some EVs are too heavy for guardrails installed on US highways. In a crash test performed at 60 mph (96.6 km/h), a 3,100-plus- kilogram Rivian R1T truck tore through the guardrail with little reduction in speed, while a 2018 Tesla Model 3 sedan lifted the barrier and passed below it.

Designed as an inexpensive, high-performing barrier, the tested guardrail system was developed at the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility (MRSF) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in response to barrier ruptures and rollovers with older systems. The system was tested with small cars weighing up to 1,088 kg and pick-up trucks weighing 2,267 kg.

Until now, little was known about how the system would perform in crashes involving EVs, which the MRSF said typically weigh 20 to 50 per cent more than ICE-powered vehicles and have lower centres of gravity.

The MRSF, which conducted the research, said other studies suggest that EVs are involved in run-off-road crashes at about the same rate and speeds as ICE-powered vehicles.

“There is some urgency to address this issue,” said Cody Stolle, Assistant Director at the MRSF. “As the percentage of EVs on the road increases, the proportion of run-off-road crashes involving EVs will increase as well.

“We need to know as much as we can now because it takes time to design new systems, evaluate them and confirm those results with full-scale crash testing. “Then, state departments of transportation around the country can begin the process of upgrading roadside barriers to new versions with more robustness.”

The research was also used to gauge if US military protection measures against hostile vehicles are prepared for the growing number of EVs.

“This work is the first necessary step toward ensuring that our nation’s protection measures, such as roadside barrier systems and barriers to protect against hostile vehicles, are adapting to accommodate for the changing composition of the vehicle fleet,” said Genevieve Pezzola, a research civil engineer at the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center, which sponsored the research.