- A Rivian R1T, with a curb weight of over 7,100 pounds, tore through a steel guardrail at 60 mph.
- The crash test highlights safety experts’ concerns about faster and heavier EVs.
- The average new car is getting heavier and that may pose some risks to surrounding environments.
A new video of a Rivian truck bursting through steel guardrails during a crash test highlights some of the safety concerns experts have raised about heavy electric vehicles.
Last year, researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Midwest Roadside Safety Facility wanted to see how guardrails that could be used on US roads would perform against a Rivian R1T electric truck, which has a curb weight of over 7,100 pounds.
The results aren’t pretty.
At 60 mph, the Rivian truck blew right through the steel guardrails with little reduction in speed, according to the university’s newsroom, Nebraska Today.
The publication reported that the guardrail was made of 12-gauge corrugated steel attached to 6-inch deep steel posts. The top of the rail is more than two and a half feet above the ground.
Spokespersons for the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility and Rivian did not respond to a request for comment.
Bigger the car, deadlier the crash
Safety experts have previously raised concerns about the risks heavy vehicles and heavier EVs could bring to the roads.
Last January, Ann Carlson, the acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told reporters that the agency was “very concerned” about the “degree to which heavier vehicles contribute to greater fatality rates,” Reuters reported.
“Bigger is safer if you don’t look at the communities surrounding you and you don’t look at the other vehicles on the road,” she said. “It actually turns out to be a very complex interaction.”
An analysis of 18,000 pedestrian crashes published in November by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that pickups, SUVs, and vans with a hood height greater than 40 inches are 45% more likely to cause fatalities than cars with a hood height of 30 inches or less.
In the UK, safety experts say the heavier weight could cause older parking garages across the country to collapse.
The concerns around heavier cars come as the world sees an inflection point between two trends: an increasing appetite for larger cars and the adoption — albeit a slower one — of EVs.
Electric vehicles, small and large, are heavier than their gasoline-powered counterparts due to their batteries.
Kevin Heaslip, a professor and director of the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Tennessee, told Politifact that EVs often weigh 30% more than gas-powered vehicles.
At the same time, car makers are seeing more demand for larger vehicles.
In recent years, automakers have slowly phased out small car segments, such as the sedan and hatchback, for SUVs and pickups. The US’s top-selling vehicle for more than four decades has been Ford’s F-Series trucks, according to an analysis by S&P Global Mobility.
As such, EV automakers have little choice but to respond and fill the gap with electric SUVs and trucks.
“It’s no surprise and no coincidence that most of the new models being introduced or planned to be introduced over the coming months are around that segment because that’s what we as US consumers want to purchase,” Steve Patton, EY America’s mobility sector leader, previously told Business Insider’s Alexa St. John.
Heavy trucks with Ferrari speed
Larger electric vehicles, such as the GMC Hummer EV and the Ford F-150 Lightning, have shown that the batteries can add anywhere from two to three tons more weight.
The curb weight of the Tesla’s Cybertruck is nearly 7,000 pounds. The weight, speed, and autopilot capabilities are why one safety expert described the truck as a “fucking deathtrap” and “death machine.”
“Something like the Cybertruck and the F-150 electric, these things are different,” Myles Russell, a Canadian civil engineering technologist, told BI’s Madison Hall. “Now you’re packing in Ferrari and McLaren-level powers, and even arguably Tesla high-energy vehicles, into the size of a truck.”
Research by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Midwest Roadside Safety Facility found that EVs could crash into roadside barriers with 20% to 50% more impact energy because they’re involved in run-off-road crashes at about the same rate and speeds as gasoline vehicles, the university newsroom reported.
“There is some urgency to address this issue,” Cody Stolle, Midwest Roadside Safety Facility’s assistant director, told the publication. “As the percentage of EVs on the road increases, the proportion of run-off-road crashes involving EVs will increase, as well.”
Spokespersons for GMC, Tesla, and Ford did not respond to a request for comment sent outside regular working hours.