Electric vehicles are becoming more popular, and current trends show EV sales could outstrip gas-powered cars within a few years. But another trend is emerging among carmakers – building heavier EVs that present profound safety risks for other motorists, pedestrians, motorcyclists and bicyclists.
Of course, large SUVs, semi trucks and delivery vehicles have been around for decades, creating safety issues themselves. However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says most of today’s EV designs prioritize rapid acceleration without complementary improvements to braking performance.
The “need for speed” fuels EV buyers
Carmakers continue to roll out new EV models. Over the past couple of years, nearly all of them are paying close attention to American car buyers’ increased preference for SUVs, pickup trucks and other large vehicles. Oversized EVs require larger batteries to increase power and distances between charges. Manufacturers also want to offer performance enhancements, such as going from 0 to 60 mph in three seconds.
The first EV tested by the IIHS was the Nissan Leaf in 2011, weighing just over 3,000 pounds. The new iterations of larger EVs routinely exceed 6,000 pounds, with the Rivian R1T pickup topping the scales at 7,000 pounds. The safety group says these hefty, quick-acceleration vehicles will likely saturate highways and residential neighborhoods very soon, increasing the severity of injuries and damage when wrecks occur.
What can be done to improve safety?
EVs are essential for ending fossil fuel reliance to address climate change. The IIHS says if carmakers make no effort to reduce the size and weight of these vehicles, they could make design changes to lessen the severity of crashes. For example, they could increase “crumple zones” that absorb more force protecting people inside and outside the vehicle.
The IIHS says since EVs are here to stay, manufacturers should also install the best crash avoidance technology available, such as automatic braking systems, which recognize and stop for cyclists and pedestrians. The group says local governments can also improve safety for citizens by lowering speed limits and ramping up enforcement efforts.